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Free Life Editions 
New York 

S t>7 


Copyright © 1975 by Joel H. Spring 
All rights reserved. 

Second Printing, July, 1977 

Published 1975 by Free Life Editions, Inc., 

41 Union Square, New York, N.Y. 10003. 

Library of Congress Catalog Number 75-10122 
ISBN 0-914156-12-8 hardcover 
0-914156-13-6 paperback 

\ i > / 

Manufactured in the United States of America 



The illustration on the cover and those used inside this 
book are reproduced from linoleum cuts made by children 
of the Modem School at the Stelton Colony, Stelton, New 
Jersey (1911-1953). 



1 The Radical Critique of Schooling 

2 Ownership of Self 

3 The Growth of Consciousness: Marx to Freire 

4 Sexual Liberation and Summerhill: Reich and 


5 Freeing the Child from Childhood 

8 Present Realities and Future Prospects 














LIBERTARIAN THEORIES of education are a product of 
the belief that any successful radical change in society 
partly depends upon changes in the character structure and 
attitudes of the population: a new society cannot be bom 
unless a new person is bom that can function within it. 
Radical pedagogy is concerned with new forms of sociali- 
zation that will encourage non-authoritarian and revolu- 
tionary character structures. Thus, radical pedagogy 
encompasses not only traditional modes of learning within 
the school but also methods of child rearing and the 
organization of the family. 

In considering radical forms of education it should be 
recognized that they have stood outside the dominant 
streams of educational development, which have been 
directed at reforming society rather than radically chang- 
ing it. For instance, public schools attempt to eliminate 
poverty by educating the children of the poor so that they 


can function within the existing social structure. Radical 
education would attempt to change the social attitudes 
which support this social structure. The questions raised 
by radical education are very different from those raised 
by a reform-oriented education. The distinction is very 
much like the one Wilhelm Reich made between radical 
and reactionary psychologists: a reactionary psychologist, 
when confronted with poor people who are thieves, would 
ask how one could end their stealing habits; a radical 
psychologist would ask why all poor people do not steal. 
The first approach would emphasize changing behavior to 
fit into the existing social structure while the second 
would try to identify those psychological characteristics of 
the social structure which keep most poor people under 

Public schooling and radical education are almost 
contradictory notions. Public schools are supported by the 
dominant social structure and in turn work to support that 
structure. Public schools can reform and improve but they 
do not attempt to make basic structural changes. The 
rejection of the public school represents one of the 
important themes in the historical development of radical 
forms of education— from William Godwin in the 
eighteenth century to Ivan Illich in the twentieth— and has 
been premised on the idea that schools came into being as 
a means of shaping the moral and social beliefs of the 
population for the benefit of a dominant elite. Throughout 
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this tradition of 
criticism has been interwoven with practical attempts by 
radical groups to create a system of education that would 
free people from ideological control. 

This volume focuses on the major radical educational 
ideas flowing from anarchism, Marxism, and the Freudian 
left. Anarchism represents one important radical tradition 
which has attempted to develop techniques for making 
people free of all domination. As the anarchist Max Stimer 
emphasized in the nineteenth century, the primary prob- 


lem is getting people to the point of truly owning their 
minds. Another radical tradition has sought to achieve 
freedom from ideological control by raising levels of 
consciousness and linking thought and learning to social 
change. This stream of thought has made the overcoming 
of human alienation in the modem industrial world the 
first step in radical change. It has its origins in Marxist 
thought and is best represented in the modern world by 
the work of Paulo Freire. A third tradition, that of the 
Freudian left, including people like A.S. Neill and Wilhelm 
Reich, has emphasized the necessity of changing character 
structure. All radical educators in the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries, of course, have placed some emphasis 
on the necessity for changing the family structure and 
liberating women; for some, like Reich, the elimination of 
the traditional family and the development of free sexual 
relations were to be the first step in radical education. 

All of these groups and ideas have formed a tradition of 
radical education in the nineteenth and twentieth cen- 
turies. It is a tradition which has not necessarily been held 
together by common contacts, though this did occur, nor 
by common institutional connections. Rather, its cohesion 
derives largely from a common belief that power and 
domination by social structures depend on child-rearing 
practices and ideological control, that the power of the 
state and economy rests on a submissive population. 
Radicals within this tradition have not only a shared 
critique but a shared alternative vision as well, emphasizing 
women’s liberation, sexual freedom, new forms of family 
organization, and the importance of autonomy. 





AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT of radical concern about 
education has been the reaction to the rise of mass 
schooling in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 
During this period there was a steady trend toward 
universal compulsory schooling in state-supported and 
regulated schools. The purpose of mass schooling has been 
to train the citizen and worker for the modem industrial 
state. It is only natural for those who seek a radical 
transformation of society to have adopted a highly critical 
posture toward systems of schooling which are organized 
to maintain that society. 

The major themes of radical criticism have centered 
around the political, social, and economic power of the 
school. One concern has been that public schooling under 
the control of a national government inevitably leads to 
attempts by the educational system to produce citizens 
who will be blindly obedient to the dictates of that 



government, citizens who will uphold the authority of 
government even when it runs counter to personal interest 
and reason and who will adopt a nationalistic posture of 
“my country, right or wrong.” Another theme of radical 
criticism has been that systems of schooling have been 
used to produce workers who are trained by the process of 
schooling to accept work which is monotonous, boring and 
without personal satisfaction. These workers accept the 
authority of the industrial system and do not seek any 
fundamental changes in that system. Still another concern 
has been the myth of social mobility through education 
that has accompanied the development of mass schooling. 
This myth has led to the acceptance of educational 
credentials as a just measure of social worth and as a basis 
for social rewards, and yet these credentials have been 
distributed according to existing social class divisions. 
Rather than increasing mobility, education has added more 
cement to the divisions between social classes. 1 

These themes are illustrated by the work of three major 
critics of education: William Godwin, Francisco Ferrer, 
and Ivan Illich. Godwin was one of the first critics of 
education to argue against the political power the state 
would derive from its ability to spread its particular 
ideology in the schools. Francisco Ferrer directed his 
concern toward mass public schooling and its role in 
producing well-trained and well-controlled workers for the 
new industrial economies of the nineteenth century. Ivan 
Illich represents one of the most recent critics of the 
relationship between schooling and the social system. All 
of these themes will take on added meaning in later 
chapters because in one sense radical theories of education 
have been attempts to produce the opposite of the very 
things these critics are attacking. Radicals have searched 
for an educational system and a process of child rearing 
that will create a non-authoritarian person who will not 
obediently accept the dicatates of the political and social 
system and who will demand greater personal control and 


DURING THE LATE eighteenth and early nineteenth 
centuries Western societies were feeling the tension of the 
shift from monarchical to republican forms of government. 
During this period the close relationship between the 
political process and mass public schooling was developed. 
It was at this time that William Godwin wrote his 
trenchant critique of mass schooling. The French and 
American revolutions symbolized the eighteenth-century 
faith in individual reason and its ability to guide govern- 
ment. But there were certain inherent contradictions in 
these political changes. Faith in individual reason could 
lead to an argument for no government at all rather than a 
republican form of government. For William Godwin, born 
in 1756, the reduction in the power of monarchies seemed 
to be followed by the increased power of a new ruling 
elite. To change the form of government meant very little 
as long as any government existed which could be used in 
the interests of a controlling group. For Godwin faith in 
the power of human reason implied a society where each 
person could be sovereign rather than a republican society 
with periodic changes in the ruling class. 

Godwin was bom into a family of non-conformist 
ministers in England. He was trained for the church, but 
rejected the ministry and in 1783 attempted to open a 
school. When his school did not succeed, he tried his hand 
at writing. In 1793 he published an Enquiry Concerning 
Political Justice which is considered the first modem 
anarchist attack on the concept of the state. Four years 
later he published the first modern libertarian text on 
education, the Enquirer. In 1796 he married Mary Woll- 
stonecraft whose book The Vindication of the Rights of 
Women is still a classic treatise on women’s liberation and 
the method by which education is used to enslave women 
to men. 2 

Godwin’s ideas must be understood within the frame- 
work of the Enlightenment’s faith in progress as a product 
of the unfolding of human reason. He feared that the two 


most striking phenomena of his time— the rise of the 
modern state and the development of national systems of 
education to produce citizens for that state— would have \ 

the effect of dogmatically controlling and stifling human 
reason. In the pamphlet he issued at the opening of his 
school in 1783, he argued that the two main objects of 
human power were government and education. The most 
powerful of the two was education because “government 
must always depend upon the opinion of the governed. Let 
the most oppressed people under heaven once change their 
mode of thinking, and they are free.” 3 Any mode of I 
government gains its legitimacy from the recognition and 
acceptance of people. Control of public opinion through j 
education means continued support. Despotism and injus- 
tice can therefore continue to exist in any society in which j 
the full development of human reason has been denied 
within the walls of the schoolhouse. I 

The power of national education was clearly defined in 
Godwin’s study of government, Enquiry Concerning Polit- ; 
ical Justice. He warned that “before we put so powerful a 
machine under the direction of so ambiguous an agent, it 
behooves us to consider well what it is that we do. \ 
Government will not fail to employ it, to strengthen its 
hands, and perpetuate its institutions.” Godwin believed j 
that the content of national education would be shaped to 
conform to the dictates of political power. He argued that 
“the data upon which their conduct as statesmen is 
vindicated, will be the data upon which their instructions 
are founded.” 4 The concern about national education was 
a reflection of his own suspicions about the nature of 
government. First, Godwin felt that political institutions 
favored the usurpation of power by the rich and tended to \ 
aggravate the differences between the rich and the poor. 
Legislation protected the property of the rich by unfair 
laws and systems of taxation. Law was administered by the j 
government to the advantage of those with economic 
power, and government enhanced the power of wealth by \ 


translating it into social and political power. Second, 
Godwin believed that the growth of large centralized states 
would result in the promotion of values, such as a quest 
for national glory, patriotism, and international economic 
and cultural competition, which would be of little benefit 
to the individual: 

The desire to gain a more extensive territory, to 
conquer or hold in awe our neighbouring states, to 
surpass them in arts or arms, is a desire founded in 
prejudice and error. . . . Security and peace are more 
to be desired than a name at which nations tremble. 5 

National education would be used to support chauvinistic 
patriotism and the political and economic power of the 

Godwin had other objections to national education. He 

It is not true that our youth ought to be instructed to 
venerate the constitution, however excellent; they 
should be led to venerate truth; and the constitution 
only so far as it corresponds with their uninfluenced 
deductions of truth. 6 

Godwin was convinced that a just society could only be 
the result of all people freely exercising their reason. Since 
people were constantly improving their reasoning powers 
and their understanding of nature, their understanding of 
the natural laws of conduct was constantly changing. 
Constitutions and other political institutions which tended 
to make laws permanent could only hinder the unfolding 
of people’s understanding of how life should be regulated. 

It was for this reason that dodwin objected to a 
national education which taught the laws of the land. Most 
people, he argued, could understand that certain crimes 
were injurious to the public. Those laws which stood 
outside the realm of reason and had to be taught rather 


than understood were usually laws which gave advantages 
to some particular group in society. Godwin wrote, as an 
example, It has been alleged, that ‘mere reason may teach 
me not to strike my neighbour; but will never forbid my 
sending a sack of wool from England, or printing the 
French constitution in Spain.’ ” He maintained that “all 
crimes, that can be supposed to be the fit objects of 
judicial administration, are capable of being discerned 
without the teaching of law.” He admitted that “my own 
understanding would never have told me that the exporta- 
tion of wool was a crime,” but, he added, “neither do I 
believe it is a crime, now that a law has been made 
affirming it to be such .” 7 In this statement Godwin was 
expressing his own revolutionary conviction that people 
should not obey laws which did not conform to individual 

Godwin warned, 

Had the scheme of a national education been adopted 
when despotism was most triumphant, it is not to be 
believed that it could have for ever stifled the voice of 
truth. But it would have been the most formidable 
and profound contrivance for that purpose, that 
imagination can suggest. 

Even in countries where liberty tended to prevail, he 
argued, people should be wary of national education 
because of its tendency to perpetuate error. In one of the 
most striking expressions of the case against modem 
schooling, Godwin declared: “Destroy us if you please; but 
do not endeavor, by a national education, to destroy in 
our understandings the discernment of justice and in- 
justice .” 8 

Godwin, however, was unique in raising such strong 
objections during a time when national education was 
considered one of the most advanced social causes. Even 
Mary Wollstonecraft favored a national education as a 
means of eliminating the social advantages of men over 


women. Godwin’s critique was borne out by the facts: 
most government plans for education were directed at 
maintaining political and social order by instilling partic- 
ular conceptions of law and morality; most of them did 
place emphasis on building national spirit and patriotism 
and were viewed as the bulwark of government. Yet most 
reformers and revolutionaries of the period supported 
national education plans because of a belief that schooling 
would sustain individual freedom. 

Throughout Western society the modem national state 
instituted citizenship training in the school. In Prussia, 
Johann Fichte argued that the state should expend as 
much money on education as on national defense because, 

The State which introduced universally the national 
education proposed by us, from the moment that a 
new generation of youths had passed through it, 
would need no special army at all, but would have in 
them an army such as no age has yet seen . 9 

Fichte believed that the school would not only be an 
instrument for instilling the law of the land but would 
prepare individuals to sacrifice themselves for the good of 
the community. 

In the United States the prophets of the common school 
movement argued that a common school would create a 
consensus of political and social values and effectively 
reduce political and social unrest. They exhibited an 
almost limitless faith that the school, regardless of its 
political control, would become a great engine for freedom 
and human progress. For example, Henry Barnard, one of 
the great American common school reformers of the 
nineteenth century, expressed awareness of the problems 
caused by state control of the schools, but dismissed them 
arguing that in the end education always led to freedom. 
In poetic terms he expressed the faith of the 
nineteenth-century schoolman in the power of learning 
once it is set loose in a society. “It would be easier,” he 


wrote in reference to the government stopping the 
well-schooled individual, “to return the rain to the clouds, 
from which it is falling, before it has freshened hill-top and 
valley, mingled with the waters of every rising spring, and 
reached the roots of every growing plant.” 1 0 

The faith of the nineteenth-century schoolman was 
certainly crushed in the twentieth century with the rise of 
Nazi Germany. Schooling in Germany during this period 
exemplified all the evils Godwin had foreseen in the 
eighteenth century. Schools were used to spread a par- 
ticular ideology and a brand of nationalism linked to 
territorial expansion and to the glorification of the 
country’s leaders. The Nazis implemented changes in the 
school curriculum, with compulsory training in racial 
biology and increased emphasis upon German history and 
literature. Five hours a day of physical education were 
required for building character and discipline and as 
preparation for military training. Highly propagandized 
textbook material was introduced. An order from the 
Minister of Education in 1935 gave specific instructions to 
begin racial instruction at the age of six years, to 
emphasize the importance of race and heredity for the 
future of the German people and to awaken in the 
students a pride in their membership in the German race as 
the bearer of Nordic values. The instructions stated, 
“World history is to be portrayed as the history of 
racially-determined peoples.” 1 1 

While Nazi Germany might represent an extreme 
example of what Godwin had warned against, his criticisms 
also proved prophetic in the case of the United States— the 
system of schooling that Leo Tolstoy referred to as the 
“least bad.” Patriotic exercises in U. S. schools reached a 
fever pitch during the 1920’s under pressure from such 
groups as the American Legion and the Daughters of the 
American Revolution. Radical labor unions complained 
about their inability to get union information into the 
schools and about' the schools’ emphasis on an economic 


philosophy opposed to unionization. Upton Sinclair, after 
touring the public schools in the 1920’s, complained that 
they were not furthering the welfare of humanity but were 
designed merely to keep the capitalists in power. One of 
the directors of a radical education program in New Jersey 
in 1925 declared that 

the public school system is a powerful instrument for 
the perpetuation of the present social order with all 
its injustices and inequality . . . and that, quite 
naturally, whatever is likely to disturb the existing 
arrangement is regarded unfavorably by those in 
control of the public schools. 

Radicals argued that in each community, elected school 
boards were controlled by a business and professional elite. 
Studies throughout the century tended to support this 
conclusion. 1 2 

Whether in Nazi Germany or in the United States, 
clearly the school by its very nature had become an 
institution for political control. Since it was an institution 
consciously designed to change and shape people, it was 
continually being sought as a weapon by different political 
factions. By the twentieth century all political groups 
wanted to use the school to spread their particular 
ideology and mold their ideal of the modern individual. 
The problem for radicals was that they usually lacked the 
power to compete for control of the schools; hence, the 
schools tended to become bastions of conservatism. 

BY THE END of the nineteenth century it seemed that the 
schools were also beginning to function as appendages to 
the new industrial economies. It was charged that the 
schools produced obedient servants of both the state and 
the corporation. One of the leading critics to make this 


argument was the Spanish anarchist and educator Fran- 
cisco Ferrer, who founded the Modem School in Barcelona 
in 1901. Ferrer’s work gained international recognition in 
1909 when he was accused by the Spanish government of 
leading an insurrection in Barcelona and was executed. His 
execution elicited a cry against injustice from many groups 
in Europe and the United States and sparked interest in his 
career and ideas. In the United States a Ferrer Society was 
organized and a Modem School established in Stelton, 
New Jersey as well as in other places. In Europe the 
International League for the Rational Education of 
Children, which had been founded by Ferrer, was reorgan- 
ized after his death with Anatole France as its Honorary 
President. The International League attempted to continue 
the publication of Ferrer’s review, L'Ecole Renovee, and 
distributed information and manuals on the Modem 
School. In the United States the Ferrer Society published a 
journal called The Modern School which became a vehicle 
for radical criticism of the schools. 

“They know, better than anyone else,” Ferrer wrote in 
reference to government support of schooling, “that their 
power is based almost entirely on the school.” 13 In the 
past, governments had controlled the masses by keeping 
them in a state of ignorance. With the rise of industrialism 
in the nineteenth century, governments found themselves 
involved in an international economic competition which 
required trained industrial workers. Schools triumphed in 
the nineteenth century not because of a general desire to 
reform society but because of economic requirements. 
Ferrer wrote that governments wanted schools “not 
because they hope for the renovation of society through 
education, but because they need individuals, workmen, 
perfected instruments of labor to make their industrial 
enterprises and the capital employed in them profit- 
able.” 14 Ferrer recognized that the hierarchical stmcture 
of capitalism required certain types of character traits in 
workers. They had to be trained to accept the boredom 


and monotony of factory work and to conform obediently 
to the organization of the factory. Workers needed to be 
punctual, obedient, passive, and willing to accept their 
work and position. 

In Ferrer’s mind the schools had accomplished exactly 
the things Godwin had warned of in the previous century. 
In becoming the focal points for maintaining existing 
institutions, schools came to depend on a system and 
method which conditioned the student for obedience and 
docility. This, of course, was a charge leveled at the 
schools by a variety of critics; from Ferrer’s point of view, 
however, it was an inevitable result of a school controlled 
by the state. “Children must be accustomed,” Ferrer 
wrote, “to obey, to believe, to think, according to the 
social dogmas which govern us. Hence, education cannot 
be other than such as it is to-day.” 1 5 For Ferrer one of the 
central problems was to break government’s power over 
education. Reform movements that tried to work within 
the system could accomplish nothing toward the goal of 
human emancipation. Those who organized the national 
schools, Ferrer claimed, “have never wanted the uplift of 
the individual, but his enslavement; and it is perfectly 
useless to hope for anything from the school of to-day.” 1 6 
For Ferrer it was inconceivable that a government 
would create a system of education which would lead to 
any radical changes in society. It was therefore unrealistic 
to believe that national schooling would be a means of 
significantly changing the conditions of the lower classes. 
Since it was the existing social structure which produced 
the poor, education could eliminate poverty only by 
freeing people to change the social structure in a radical 
direction. Writing in a bulletin of the Modem School about 
the mixing of rich and poor in the schools of Belgium, 
Ferrer stressed that “the instruction that is given in [the 
schools] is based on the supposed eternal necessity for a 
division of rich and poor, and on the principle that social 
harmony consists in the fulfilment of the laws. 1 What 


the poor were taught, according to Ferrer, was to accept 
the existing social structure and to believe that economic 
improvement depended on individual effort within the 
existing structure. 

Ferrer’s criticisms were directed at the very existence of 
national systems of schooling. Like Godwin, he saw the 
inevitable use of the school as a source of political control. 
Schools were becoming a great battleground in which each 
faction attempted to use the schools for its own ends. “All 
sides know the importance of the game,” he wrote, “and 
recoil at no sacrifice to secure a victory. Everyone’s cry is 
‘for and by the School.’ ” 1 8 The two dominant groups in 
this battle were government and industry. The government 
wanted the schools to produce loyal citizens, and industry 
wanted obedient and trained workers. From Ferrer’s point 
of view these demands were not in conflict. Like Godwin, 
he believed that the state existed to protect the interests of 
the rich and that the needs of industry found expression 
through the state. The differences between the criticisms 
of Godwin and Ferrer reflect the social differences 
between the late eighteenth and late nineteenth centuries. 
The late eighteenth century witnessed the triumph of the 
nation state, with its demand for loyal citizens. The late 
nineteenth century witnessed the triumph of the industrial 
revolution, with its demand not only for trained workers 
but also for workers who would perform hours of tedious 
drudgery on the assembly line of the factory. Within this 
context the goals of schooling were to be accomplished 
both through the content of the material taught in the 
school and the method of presentation. 

THE QUESTION OF METHOD became a central concern 
for these educators. They held that there was a direct link 
between methods of teaching and school organization, and 
the type of character molded by the school. Godwin, for 

instance, argued that it was the method of discipline and 
the techniques of teaching that undermined reason and 
eroded human freedom. He made a direct link between the 
form of motivation used by the teacher and the power of 
the government. A teacher used extrinsic motivation, 
presenting material to the student “despotically, by 
allurements or menaces, by showing that the pursuit of it 
will be attended with . . . approbation, and that the neglect 
of it will be regarded with displeasure.” Extrinsic motiva- 
tion was defined as that which is connected to a thing by 
accident or at the pleasure of some other individual such as 
grades, or threats of punishment. Government, Godwin 
believed, also depended on extrinsic motives to assure that 
people acted in a certain manner. Laws and police were the 
despotic means by which government assured that people 
would act in the interests of the state. An education based 
on the despotic methods of extrinsic motives prepared the 
individual for a government of despotic laws. 1 9 

In the United States the great debate at the beginning of 
the twentieth century centered around the type of social 
and economic characteristics produced within the class- 
room environment. Liberal educators rejected competition 
and individual work as promoting laissez-faire individual- 
ism. They sought a greater emphasis on group activity and 
group projects. This method of tdadhing, j it ( , argued, 

would mold the type of character required by the pew 
corporate state. Radicals in the ynited States rejected' not 
only the traditional classroom blit also the liberal quest. 
Both sought to mold the student in accordance with the 
needs and authority of state and industry. One of the 
directors of the Modem School in New Jersey wrote in the 

From the moment the child enters the public school 
he is trained to submit to authority, to do the will of 
others as a matter of course, with the result that 
habits of mind are formed which in adult life are all 
to the advantage of the ruling class. 2 0 



The question of the type of methods used in the 
classroom includes the degree and nature of authority. The 
schools of the twentieth century have developed a form of 
anonymous authority which prepares students for 
manipulation by a bureaucratic and propagandists society. 
The traditional classroom exemplified overt authority 
where the teacher directly confronted the students with 
his or her power and students were at all times aware of 
the source of power. The redeeming factor in this situation 
was that if students wished to rebel and claim their 
freedom, they could identify the source of power and 
react to it. In the twentieth century anonymous forms of 
authority were introduced into the classroom through the 
use of more sophisticated psychological techniques for 
control. These forms of control have made the realization 
of manipulation and identification of the source of control 
extremely difficult. 

The issue of the methods of the modem classroom and 
its relationship to control and authority is elucidated in 
the writings of Ivan Illich. Illich accepts the radical 
argument thdt the techniques used in the classroom in 
both . the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were related 
to shaping a character tjiat could be manipulated by the 
existing institutions of authority. The changes in classroom 
techniques |We^q dirfedtly 'related to changes within these 
institutions. Illich argues that a modem consumer-oriented 
society requires a type of character which is dependent on 
the Advice of experts for every action. Modern society 
depends on the consumption of expertly planned pack- 
ages. The school prepares the individual for this society by 
assuming responsibility for “the whole child.” By attempt- 
ing to teach automobile driving, sex education, dressing, 
adjustment to personality problems, and a host of related 
topics, the school also teaches that there is an expert and 
correct way of doing all of these things and that one 
should depend on the expertise of others. Students in the 
school ask for freedom and what they receive is the lesson 


that freedom is only conferred by authorities and must be 
used “expertly.” This dependency creates a form of 
alienation which destroys people’s ability to act. Activity 
no longer belongs to the individual but to the expert and 
the institution . 2 1 

RADICAL CRITICS HAVE also been concerned about the 
type of character that is developed within the educational 
process; this concern goes beyond the classroom and into 
the whole area of child rearing and the nature of the 
modem family. For instance, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich 
believed that the basic problem in character formation was 
the structure of the middle-class family. In discussing the 
rise of fascism in Germany, he linked the authoritarian 
personality with the process of child rearing within the 
middle-class German family. Significant social change, he 
argued, could only take place by changing the family. This 
theme was echoed throughout the nineteenth and twen- 
tieth centuries and, as we shall see later, was an important 
ingredient in many radical education plans . 2 2 

Criticism was also leveled at the school insofar as it 
tended to reinforce and strengthen the social class struc- 
ture of a society. This problem was debated in almost all 
educational circles in the nineteenth and twentieth cen- 
turies. In the United States educators continually wrestled 
with the problem of organizing an educational system that 
decreased the separation between social classes. American 
educators in the nineteenth century were always quick to 
criticize European systems for providing different schools 
for different social classes. Horace Mann, the great 
common school reformer of the nineteenth century, hoped 
to overcome this problem by establishing a common 
school that would be attended by children of all classes. 
Mann thought that with the rich and the poor rubbing 


shoulders in the common schoolhouse, class distinctions 
would melt away. The problem with the common school 
approach was that not all children entered the school with 
the same cultural background and intellectual tools, nor 
did they intend to use their education for the same 
purposes. In other words, the common school provided the 
student with too common an education. By the end of the 
nineteenth century American educators were trying to 
overcome this problem by “individualizing instruction” 
and “meeting individual needs.” 

The attempt by American educators to solve the 
problem of social class highlights one criticism made by 
Ivan Illich, namely, that the public school as a central 
institution of socialization tends to reinforce the social 
organization of the surrounding society. In this particular 
case the school tends to increase social stratification. The 
attempt to meet “individual needs” in American educa- 
tion-through ability grouping, vocational tracking, and 
special programs — raised all the contradictions and prob- 
lems inherent in the school. Ability and vocational 
grouping were based on intelligence tests, interest and 
achievement tests, and counseling, with the result that by 
the middle of the twentieth century there was great 
concern that American education was discriminating on 
the basis of social class and race. During the 1940’s 
sociologists studying a small American town found that 
there was a direct correlation between social classes and 
vocational tracks in the high school. Children of the town’s 
upper class dominated the ranks of the college preparatory 
program and children of the lowest class in town filled the 
vocational track. 2 3 This pattern appeared throughout the 
United States. And when children were separated 
according to ability as defined by standardized tests they 
ended up being grouped according to social class and race. 
In America children were schooled into their social places 
almost as if there were separate schools for each social 


For Ivan Illich this process of social stratification is 
inherent in schooling and is one of its most destructive 
features. During the 1960’s, while Chancellor of the 
Catholic University of Puerto Rico, he realized that despite 
the amount of money the underdeveloped countries of 
Latin America were spending on education, the poor were 
not reaping the full benefits of these expenditures. For 
people to get a full return on the educational dollar they 
had to go through the whole process of schooling, from 
the early grades through the universities. 

The poor are led to believe that schools will provide 
them with the opportunity for social advancement, and 
that advancement within the process of schooling is the 
result of personal merit. The poor are willing to support 
schooling on the basis of this faith. But since the rich will 
always have more years of schooling than the poor, 
schooling becomes just a new way of measuring established 
social distances. Because the poor themselves believe in the 
rightness of the school standard, the school becomes an 
even more powerful means of social division. The poor are 
taught to believe that they are poor because they did not 
make it through school. The poor are told that they were 
given the opportunity for advancement, and they believe 
it. Social position is translated through schooling into 
achievement and underachievement. Within the school the 
social and economic disadvantages of the poor are termed 
underachievement. Without the school there would be no 

Like Francisco Ferrer, Illich views the school as a 
prostitute of power. The ultimate power, he believes, is the 
school’s effect on one’s self-concept; that is, education 
teaches individuals about their own personal ability and 
character traits. People learn to think of themselves as 
stupid or bright, as being worthy or as being failures. 
Assuming that an adequate self-concept depends on 
acceptance and on ability to function in a social context, 
the psychological power of the school is obvious. The 


school dropout is told essentially that the school— that 
most helpful and democratic of institutions— has given him 
or her all opportunities and she or he has failed. The 
dropout cannot help but accept this failure and conclude 
that there is little he or she can now do to get ahead. 
Rejection by the school leads to submission, apathy, and 
in the end to complete helplessness and social stagnation. 

The authority of one social class over another is also 
strengthened in this process. The school teaches that those 
with more schooling are better people. Illich argues that 
the poor learn in school that they should submit to the 
leadership of those with more schooling, namely the upper 

Ivan Illich describes the school as the new church. 
Society’s support of schooling as a religious faith reflects 
one of the central concerns of radical critics. The school 
derives its great power from the fact that it has become the 
central child-rearing institution in modem industrial so- 
cieties. Early childhood education and day-care centers are 
slowly increasing the power of this institution, while the 
role of other institutions in the process of child rearing, 
such as the family and church, has slowly been eroded. 

IN SUMMARY, the very existence of the school allows for 
its use by a particular political and economic ideology. The 
content of what is taught depends on who controls 
society. But the power of the school extends beyond its 
propagandists role. The socialization process of the school 
shapes a particular type of character which meets the 
needs of the dominant power within the society. For 
critics like Godwin and Ferrer, the socialization process of 
the school molds citizens who will submit to the authority 
of the state and function as loyal workers in the new 
industrial society. And the socialization process schools 


people into an acceptance of their social position and 
makes them dependent upon an irrationally organized 
consumer society. 






OWNERSHIP OF SELF is an important concept in radical 
theories of education because it extends the idea of 
freedom, taking it beyond its usual meaning of political 
liberty and equality before the law, and emphasizing 
control over one’s beliefs and actions. Political liberty has 
little meaning if an individual’s actions are guided by an 
internalized authority from which there is no escape. This 
internalized authority can be the result of the moral 
imposition of a religion, an education or a child-rearing 
process. Certainly one of the goals of most educational 
systems has been the internalization of beliefs and the 
development of a conscience that will give unquestioned 
support to the existing social structure. The search for 
ownership of self has been directed toward finding an 
educational method or institutional arrangement that 
would allow for freedom from internalized authority and 


ideological domination. This has led to experiments with 
non-authoritarian methods of education. 

The concept of ownership of self emerged from the 
rationalistic background of the eighteenth-century Enlight- 
enment. The Enlightenment brought a revolt against 
moralistic preachings and religious dogma which hampered 
the free use of reason. In the nineteenth century argu- 
ments were directed at both the state and the church and 
included a concern with ideology and the alienation of 
thought from action. This concern revolved around the 
Marxist argument that the dominant ideology of a society 
is the ideology of the dominant elite. Ideology is not a 
product of the actions of the vast majority of a society, 
but of the needs and desires of one particular social class. 
Since ideology gives shape and meaning to knowledge, this 
results in a separation of thought and action. Knowledge 
becomes something which uses people rather than being 
used by them. For example, Francisco Ferrer argued in the 
late nineteenth century that a knowledge of arithmetic 
could either become a tool for individual use or a tool of 
enslavement to the industrial system. If arithmetic were 
taught in terms of the ideology of capitalism— dealing with 
such things as problems of interest rates, business compu- 
tations, and other techniques for functioning within the 
capitalist system— knowledge became a tool for enslave- 
ment. On the other hand, if arithmetic problems involving 
the development of new economic systems were presented, 
it became a tool of freedom and action . 1 

Since internalized forms of authority constitute a strong 
barrier to ownership of self, they have been a major 
concern of radical critics from Rousseau, to Stimer, to the 
present day. Traditionally, Christianity referred to inter- 
nalized authority as “conscience” and viewed it as the 
presence of God’s guidance and law within each person. In 
the late nineteenth century, church, school, family, and 
community customs were all viewed as important sources 


for the internalization of beliefs which help maintain social 

ONE OF THE EARLIEST educational plans to deal with 
freeing the individual from the domination of a system of 
internalized prescribed beliefs was Jean Jacques Rousseau’s 
Emile, written in the eighteenth century . 2 This work is 
certainly not as radical as that of the nineteenth-century 
anarchists but it did foreshadow many of their ideas and is 
a valuable aid to understanding the later arguments of men 
like the German anarchist Max Stimer. Rousseau’s educa- 
tional plan was based on the psychological argument that 
an individual was incapable of reasoning about moral and 
social problems until the age of adolescence. Any teaching 
of moral and social ideas before this age resulted in 
acceptance on the basis of authority rather than reason. 
Rousseau recommended isolating the child from these 
problems and building the child’s early education around a 
future use of reason. The problem of isolation became an 
important issue among libertarian educators in the nine- 
teenth and twentieth centuries. Was it really feasible to 
isolate the child from any dogmatic teaching? And what 
do you teach if you are isolating the child from all dogma? 
As we shall see, this became an important problem for 
anarchist educators like Francisco Ferrer. 

According to Rousseau, the individual during this early 
period of development was incapable of reasoning about 
morality or social relations. Words like “duty,” “obey,” 
“command,” and “obligation” should be banished from 
the vocabulary during this stage of life. An adult should 
not confront a child with any claim of authority or duty, 
but with the simple reality that the adult is stronger and 

For Rousseau the important thing was to avoid any 


moralistic situations before the age when the child could 
handle them with his or her own powers of reasoning. This 
was an important aspect of what Rousseau called “negative 
education.’’ In this case it meant no moral instruction. If 
moral instruction were given at an early age, it would 
dominate action rather than be utilized by the individual. 
The second part of negative education was the avoidance 
of verbal learning. This meant education through exper- 
ience and not through verbal instruction or reading. 
Rousseau felt that books were one of the great plagues of 
childhood. He did not mean that the child should not be 
taught how to read, but rather that learning to read should 
be attached to experience and necessity. For example, 
Emile in Rousseau’s book would receive invitations to 
dinners and parties and couldn’t find anyone to read them 
to him. From these experiences Emile would take it upon 
himself to learn how to read because of self-interest and 
necessity. Rousseau’s method of teaching reading avoided 
moral instruction— it wasn’t based on a sense of duty or 
belief in some abstract good. Learning and knowledge were 
tools for the individual to use, not tools to use the 
individual. As we shall see in the next chapter, this is a 
major emphasis in the pedagogical methods of Paulo 

The same idea guided the education of Emile just before 
the stage of adolescence. Rousseau argued that following 
the law of necessity came the principle of utility. 
Embodied in this principle was the sacred question, “What 
is the good of that?” During this stage Emile was 
introduced to the usefulness of social relationships while 
avoiding their moral aspects. By learning about the manual 
arts and occupations, Emile learned about the interde- 
pendence of society and the usefulness of social organi- 
zation. Emile learned about the importance of social 
organization by experiencing its personal usefulness and 
necessity. Thus with the beginning of the age of reason 
Emile would be able to make a choice not on the basis of 


belief but after consideration of necessity and usefulness. 
The acceptance of a government, for instance, would not 
be a product of youthful indoctrination or the establish- 
ment of a fixed set of beliefs but a choice resulting from a 
process of reasoning. 

At adolescence, Rousseau argued, the individual was 
reborn. The development of sexual drives forced the 
individual out of a narrowly defined sense of self into the 
social world. The development of moral and social 
reasoning was a direct outgrowth of self-love. An in- 
dividual’s understanding of others was based on the ability 
to identify with the feelings of others. Concerns about 
good and bad with regard to others were to be a result of 
the identity one established between self and others. At 
this stage Emile was introduced into society and under- 
went social and religious education. From this Emile 
learned that if the authority of individuals and the 
prejudices of society are eliminated from education, and 
the individual is educated according to nature, the light of 
reason becomes the guide for individual action. 

At the end of Emile’s education he was asked what he 
had learned. He replied that he had been taught to be free 
by learning to yield to necessity, the ultimate necessity of 
life being death. Rather than struggle with destiny, 
freedom requires its acceptance. He also argued that 
people cannot obtain freedom under the safeguard of laws. 
Liberty, he claimed, was not to be found in government 
but in the heart of the free person. 

Rousseau’s plan for making all social and moral beliefs the 
product of reasoning based on necessity and usefulness. It 
was the nineteenth-century anarchist Max Stimer who 
developed this idea to its fullest and labeled it the 
ownership of self. Stimer, whose reeil name was Johann 


Casper Schmidt, was a poor German schoolteacher who 
during the 1840’s attended meetings of the Young 
Hegelians in Berlin with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In 
1842 Marx published Stimer’s important article on edu- 
cation, “The False Principle of Our Education,” in the 
Rheinische Zeitung. In 1844 Stirner completed his book 
. The Ego and His Own which so upset Marx that he later 

devoted a large section of The German Ideology to an 
attack on Stirner. 3 

Stirner essentially agreed with Rousseau that the 
method of education should allow for individual choice of 
belief. He premised this on the idea that individuals should 
at all times make their knowledge and beliefs subservient 
to their own needs and desires. In a sense the real test of 
this was their ability to rid themselves of any particular 
idea and belief. As Stirner wrote in his book, The Ego and 
His Own, “The thought is my own only when I have no 
misgiving about bringing it in danger of death every 
moment, when I do not have to fear its loss as a loss for 
me, a loss of me.” 4 The thought that one could not get rid 
of, the thought which owned the individual, was what 
Stirner referred to as the “wheel in the head”— the moral 
imperative which told one what should be done. It was the 
thought which controlled the will, the knowledge which 
used the individual, rather than being used by the 

For Stirner the ownership of self meant the elimination 
of “wheels in the head.” This was a theme he elaborated 
on in “The False Principle of Our Education.” Stirner 
III made a distinction between a “freeman” and an “educated 

man.” For the educated man knowledge was used to shape 
character; it became a wheel in the head which allowed 
him to be possessed by the church, state or humanity. For 
the freeman knowledge was used to facilitate choice. “If 
one awakens in men the idea of freedom,” Stirner wrote, 

then the freemen will incessantly go on to free 
themselves; if, on the contrary, one only educates 


them, then they will at all times accommodate 
themselves to circumstances in the most highly 
educated and elegant manner and degenerate into 
subservient cringing souls. 5 

For the freeman knowing something was the source of 
greater choice, while for the educated man knowing 
something was the determiner of choice. 

The major problem with modern society, Stirner be- 
lieved, was that it was full of educated people instead of 
free people. “Man,” Stirner warned, “your head is 
haunted; you have wheels in your head! . . . An idea that 
has subjected the man to itself.” The problem was how to 
achieve not political liberty but ownership of self. Stirner 
objected to the idea of political liberty because it only 
meant the freedom of institutions and ideology. “Political 
liberty,” he wrote, 

meant that the polis, the State, is free; freedom of 
religion that religion is free, as freedom of conscience 
signifies that conscience is free; not, therefore, that I 
am free from the State, from religion, from con- 
science, or that I am rid of them. 6 

This made the control and nature of education the central 
issue for modem society. 

The real source of power in a society was the institution 
which owned the inner life of the individual. In the past 
the church fulfilled the mission of guiding and dominating 
the mind. In the world of the nineteenth century the 
dominating influence was becoming the politics of the 
state. Religion and politics gained power by their ability to 
establish imperatives directing the actions of the indi- 
vidual. Stirner wrote, “Under religion and politics man 
finds himself at the standpoint of should: he should 
become this and that, should be so and so. With this 
postulate, this commandment, every one steps not only in 
front of another but also in front of himself.” 7 


The power of the modem state lay in its recognition of 
the importance of domination of the mind. In the modem 
state, laws were internalized within the individual, so that 
“freedom” merely meant the freedom to obey the laws 
that one had been taught to believe. It was the dream of 
the nineteenth -century schoolmasters to end disobedience 
through the internalization of law in the public schools. 
Stirner wrote, in one of his finest passages, 

Here at last the domination of the law is for the first 
time complete. “Not I live, but the law lives in me.” 
Thus I have really come so far to be only the vessel of 
its glory. Every Prussian carries his gendarme in his 
breast, says a high Prussian officer. 

Placing the gendarme in the breast was the goal of the 
modem state. Freedom meant freedom from direct control 
of the state and freedom to act according to the laws of 
the state. Stirner quoted Francois Guizot, an important 
political leader in France in the 1840’s, as stating, “The 
great difficulty of to-day is the guiding and dominating of 
the mind. Formerly the church fulfilled this mission; now 
it is not adequate to it. It is from the university that this 
great service must be expected. . . .” It was for this reason, 
Guizot argued, that government had the duty of support- 
ing the university. Stirner pointed out that the charter 
being issued for the university called for freedom of 
thought and conscience. He quietly commented, “So, in 
favor of freedom of thought and conscience, the minister 
demands ‘the guiding and dominating of the mind.’ ” 8 
If ■ Domination was not only an internalization of a 

concrete ideology which had direct and immediate ref- 
erence to the needs of a society. Domination also referred 
to the ideal, the moral imperative that captured the loyalty 
of the individual. There were two levels of wheels in the 
head. The first level led people through everyday life. One 
went to church and paid taxes because that was what one 
was taught; that was the way one lived. On the second 


level were ideals — ideals that drove people to sacrifice 
themselves for the good of the fatherland, that made them 
try to be Christ-like, ideals that led them to give up what 
they were for some unrealizable goal. It was this realm of 
ideals upon which the strength of the church and state 
was built. Patriotism and religious fervor were the results 
of people being possessed by ideals. 

The ideal gains possession of people, Stirner argued, 
because of a confusion between what is thinkable and 
what is possible. Just because one can think that all people 
can be good does not mean that it is possible for all people 
to be good nor that they ought to be good. Yet it is 
precisely this “sleight of mind, ’’Stirner suggested, that occurs. 
“It was thinkable that men might become rational; 
thinkable, that they might know Christ; thinkable, that 
they might become moral . . . that they might be obedient 
subjects . . .” Since it was thinkable, it was possible, “and 
further, because it was possible to men . . . therefore they 
ought to be so, it was their calling; and finally— one is to 
take men only according to this calling, only as called men, 
‘not as they are, but as they ought to be.’ ” From this 
point of view, individuals in the modem world were driven 
creatures who sacrificed what they were for some ideal of 
what they ought to be. People did not own themselves but 
were owned by what they ought to be. The church told 
people they ought to be like Christ, the state that they 
ought to be good citizens, and the liberal politician that 
they ought to give all to the cause of humanity. Modem 
individuals could never find themselves because of a world 
surrounded with images of what they ought to be. “Man is 
not the individual,” Stirner wrote, “but man is a thought, 
an ideal, to which the individual is related not even as the 
child to the man, but as a chalk point to a point thought 
of . . .” Both the possibility and moral imperativeness of 
an ideal gain existence because they too can be formulated 
by thought. The thought of the dominant institutions 
became the moral imperative of a society. In the past the 


dominant institution was the church with its handmaiden, 
the priest; in the nineteenth century it was the state and 
its preacher, the schoolmaster. “Thus,” Stimer wrote, “the 
thinkers rule in the world as long as the age of priests or of 
schoolmasters lasts, and what they think of is possible, but 
what is possible must be realized .” 9 

Stimer believed that for individuals to own themselves 
they must gain beliefs not through schooling but through 
actions of the will. In other words, a person might find it 
useful to believe in something and act according to that 
belief. All ideas and actions were to be judged in terms of 
their value to the person. The distinction Stimer made was 
essentially the difference between learning a religious 
catechism at an early age and making a choice later in life 
about joining a church. On the one hand, learning to 
believe in a religion at an early age put a wheel in the head 
that was difficult to lose. Religion becomes, as Stimer 
stated, “An idea that has subjected the man to itself.” On 
the other hand, if one chose a religion through the exercise 
of reason based on relevant knowledge and free of any 
belief about what ought to be, that belief was owned by 
that person. If one owned the thought, one could get rid 
of it; it did not own the individual. 

Of course in the case of religion, Stimer assumed that 
nobody would want to own such a belief if given a choice. 
Religion and the state depended upon the teaching of 
dogma. If people truly owned themselves, Stimer assumed, 
they would not find religion or the state useful and would 
not choose them. 

II! < Stimer also criticized the idea of equality in the modem 

state. Equality within the state amounted simply to equal 
treatment by the state. “As citizens of the State,” Stimer 
wrote, “they are certainly all equal for the State. But it 
will divide them and advance them or put them in the rear, 
according to its special ends, if on no other account; and 
still more must it distinguish them from one another as 
good and bad citizens.” Within the framework of equality 



and freedom, the modern state turned all things to its own 
ends. Equality before the law did not mean the end of 
injustice, for all people could be treated equally under 
unjust laws . 1 0 

The belief in the rightness of the state was the main 
problem. If people became citizens and lived for the state, 
then the state could sanctify all actions. “If the welfare of 
the State is the end, war is a hallowed means; if justice is 
the State’s end, homicide is a hallowed means, and is called 
by its sacred name, ‘execution’; the sacred State hallows 
every thing that is serviceable to it.” The state was an 
instrument of power for the dominant elite in a society. If 
the elite killed through the state it was justice. If a citizen 
killed in retaliation, it was a crime. This situation could 
exist only if people were taught to believe in the concept 
of the state. Just as the church taught morality for God, 
schools taught citizenship for the state. 

The solution to the problem of the state was a direct 
outgrowth of Stimer’s reflections on education- 
knowledge would become a vehicle for self-ownership, a 
tool by which people made choices about what was useful 
to them. Stimer envisioned replacing the state with a 
Union of Egoists— a social organization of free individuals 
in which there would be no sacrifice to meaningless 
abstraction; like the “welfare of human society.” Social 
organizations and institutions would be based on the needs 
of each individual. When their usefulness ended, so would 
the institutions . 1 1 

Stimer never stated in any detail how one would achieve 
an education free of dogma and moral imperatives or how 
an individual could be freed of the wheels in the head. This 
process became a goal for libertarian educators. They often 
got bogged down in circular arguments about a non- 
dogmatic education itself establishing its own dogma. 
Some radicals found themselves in the strange position of 
taking a strong ideological stance toward social problems 
but fearing to convey that belief to the child. For example, 


the American anarchist Emma Goldman warned radical 
parents at the beginning of the twentieth century that if 
they imposed beliefs on their children, they would find 
that the 

boy or girl, over-fed on Thomas Paine, will land in the 
arms of the Church, or they will vote for imperialism 
only to escape the drag of economic determinism and 
scientific socialism, or that they . . . cling to their 
right of accumulating property, only to find relief 
from the old-fashioned communism of their father. 1 2 

self-ownership was highlighted in Francisco Ferrer’s 
Modem School in Spain. When Ferrer set about organizing 
his school in the 1890’s, he searched for non-dogmatic 
books for its library. He found himself completely 
frustrated in his search and consequently the school 
opened without a single volume in its library. 1 3 The 
inability to find a non-dogmatic text illustrates the danger 
of libertarian education becoming a vacuum, with adults 
fearing to pass on any knowledge. This extreme was never 
reached in the nineteenth century because of a basic belief 
in the objective facts of science and human reason. There 
was an overriding faith that there existed a body of 
objective natural and social laws that people could learn 
i* 1 and use for their own benefit. 

It was within the framework of science and rationalism 
that Ferrer tried to actualize an education for self- 
ownership and freedom from dogmatic control. He be- 
lieved the role of the teacher to be that of planting the 
germ of ideas which would grow within the range of the 
individual’s reason. The germ of the ideas was to be in the 
form of the exact sciences. “The work of man’s cerebral 


energy is to create the ideal,” Ferrer wrote, “with the aid 
of art and philosophy. But in order that the ideal shall not 
degenerate into fables, or mystic and unsubstantial 
dreams ... it is absolutely necessary to give it a secure and 
unshakable foundation in the exact sciences.” 1 4 

The only purpose in teaching the exact sciences was to 
provide a basis for the use of reason. Education was not 
designed to make a person into a good citizen, a religious 
person, or even a good person. Any such goal was viewed 
as dogmatic, as imposing an ideal of what ought to be. It 
was for this reason that there were no rewards or 
punishments in Ferrer’s Modem School. “Since we are not 
educating for a specific purpose,” Ferrer wrote, “we 
cannot determine the capacity or incapacity of the child.” 
In other words, in an educational process with no 
particular goal or end, the children could not be rewarded 
or punished because there was nothing to be punished 
for . 1 5 

There were goals, of course. Whether these goals 
defeated the idea of non-dogmatic education was a 
question that provided endless debate in libertarian circles 
and proved utterly unanswerable. Ferrer clearly stated, 

It must be the aim of the rational schools to show the 
children that there will be tyranny and slavery as long 
as one man depends upon another, to study the 
causes of the prevailing ignorance, to learn the origin 
of all the traditional practices which give life to the 
existing social system, and to direct the attention of 
the pupils to these matters. 

One feels confident that Ferrer would have dismissed any 
criticism of this goal as nonsense. He was convinced that 
there was an objective set of facts that could be learned 
without subjecting the student to an ideology. 

One example was Ferrer’s technique of teaching arith- 
metic. This was discussed earlier in this chapter as an 
illustration of either enslavement or freedom through 

knowledge. Ferrer wanted arithmetic taught with examples 
dealing with the just distribution of production, communi- 
cation, transportation, the benefits of machinery, and 
public works. “In a word,” Ferrer wrote, “the Modem 
School wants a number of problems showing what 
arithmetic really ought to be— the science of the social 
economy (taking the work economy in its etymological 
sense of ‘good distribution’).” 1 6 In this sense objective 
fact or knowledge had a special meaning. It was objective 
in the sense that individuals could use it for maintaining 
their own individual freedom. Arithmetic placed in the 
framework of the existing economic systems became a 
method by which individuals were indoctrinated into those 
systems. On the other hand, arithmetic presented as a tool 
for creating a more just organization of the economy was 
knowledge that individuals could use to free themselves. 

Another example of this type of method was Emma 
Goldman’s criticism of traditional methods of teaching 
history. She wrote, “See how the events of the world 
become like a cheap puppet show, where a few wire-pullers 
are supposed to have directed the course of development 
of the entire race.” History which emphasized the actions 
of rulers, governments, and great men conditioned the 
individual to accept a society in which most people were 
expected to be passive with a few leaders directing events. 
Emma Goldman believed history should emphasize the 
ability of all people to act and shape the direction of 
history. History presented in the traditional manner 
enslaved humanity to authoritarian institutions. But when 
history is portrayed with all people as active agents, 
individuals learn of their power to shape the future. 1 7 

The educational process in these examples loses its 
dogmatism and moral direction— it presents material the 
individual can use to obtain freedom. The problem with 
this technique is that it skirts the issue of how the 
individual can learn about a particular ideology out of a 
desire to understand. How does one learn about religion 


without becoming religious? How does one learn about 
capitalism without becoming a capitalist? Should one in 
fact isolate the child from all beliefs? Couldn’t one learn 
more about the real meaning of an ideology by listening to 
a believer argue his or her cause? 

ONE WAY OUT of this particular dilemma was offered by 
the Christian anarchist and Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, 
who established a school in Russia in the 1860’s. Tolstoy 
resolved the issue by replacing the concept of education 
with that of culture. He argued that one had to make a 
clear distinction between the concepts of culture, educa- 
tion, instruction, and teaching. Culture was defined as the 
total of all the social forces which shaped the character of 
the individual. Education was the conscious attempt to 
give people a particular type of character and habit. As 
Tolstoy stated, “Education is the tendency of one man to 
make another just like himself.” The difference between 
education and culture was compulsion. “Education is 
culture under restraint. Culture is free.” Tolstoy argued 
that instruction and teaching were related to both educa- 
tion and culture. Instruction was the transmission of one 
person’s information to another; teaching was the instruc- 
tion of physical skills. Teaching and instruction were 
means of culture, Tolstoy claimed, when they were free. 
They were means of education, “when the teaching is 
forced upon the pupil, and when the instruction is 
exclusive, that is when only those subjects are taught 
which the educator regards as necessary.” 1 8 

Learning, then, should be a process of culture and not 
of education. The school should practice non-interference, 
with students left free to learn what they wanted to learn. 
Tolstoy defined a school as “the conscious activity of he 


who gives culture upon those who receive it . . Non- 
interference in the school meant “granting the person . . . 
the full freedom to avail himself of the teaching which 
answers his need, which he wants . . . and to avoid teaching 
which he does not need and which he does not want.” 
Museums and public lectures were examples of schools of 
non-interference: they were consciously planned to 

achieve a certain goal, but the user was free to attend or 
not to attend. Established schools and universities, on the 
other hand, used a system of rewards and punishments and 
limited the area of studies to achieve their particular ends. 
A non-compulsory school was one without a planned 
program where teachers could teach what they wanted and 
their offerings would be regulated by the demands of the 
students. The school would not be interested in how its 
teaching was used or what the effect would be on the 
students. The school would be a place of culture and not 
of education. 

Tolstoy’s solution essentially tried to solve the Stimer- 
ian problem of self-ownership by eliminating all compul- 
sory institutions that were designed to turn a person into 
something. This was premised on a profound belief that if 
people were allowed to be self-regulating, they would 
choose the best and most rewarding life. For Tolstoy, who 
was a Christian anarchist, self-regulation meant allowing 
people to be governed by the goodness of God within 
themselves. This, of course, was a concept rejected by 
strict rationalists like Ferrer and anti-religious thinkers like 
Stimer. Yet if the religious argument is overlooked, there 
are possible grounds for agreement between Stimer and 
Tolstoy on the issue of self-regulation, centering on the 
relationship between teacher and student. Both Stimer and 
Tolstoy would probably have agreed that self -regulation is 
impossible as long as the traditional teacher-student 
relationship exists and the school continues consciously to 
plan a particular outcome. 


STIRNER’S ANALYSIS of the relationship between stu- 
dent and teacher was one of his most profound contribu- 
tions to the understanding of the enslavement of humanity 
in the modem world. Ownership of self was more than just 
a matter of not forcing moral imperatives and dogma on 
the individual; it was also a matter of free exercise of the 
will. The very existence of a teacher-to-student relation- 
ship froze the will of the individual. In fact this rela- 
tionship prepared individuals to give up their wills to the 
authority of social institutions. 

Stimer believed that knowledge which was taught 
turned individuals into learners rather than creative per- 
sons. Learners lost their freedom of will through increasing 
dependency on experts and institutions for instructions on 
how to act. They were without free will because they 
depended on learning how to act rather than determining 
for themselves how to act. 

Where will a creative person be educated instead of a 
learning one, where does the teacher turn into a 
fellow worker, where does he recognize knowledge as 
turning into will, where does the free man count as a 
goal and not the merely educated ? [emphasis 
added ] 19 

To avoid turning people into mere learners, the goal of 
pedagogy should be self-development— in the sense of an 
individual gaining self-awareness and the ability to act. The 
existing schools worked against the freedom of the will. 

In discussing the development of education up to his 
time, Stimer argued that following the Reformation, 
education in the humanistic tradition was a source of 
power: “. . . . education, as a power, raised him who 


possessed it over the weak, who lacked it, and the 
educated man counted ... as the mighty, the powerful, 
the imposing one: for he was an authority.” The rise of the 
idea of universal schooling, on the other hand, undermined 
the authority of the humanist scholar with a new system 
designed to produce citizens trained for practical life. 
Authority in the system of popular education was not that 
of one person over another; it was the authority of the 
dogma of the practical and useful. This new educational 
authority meant not subservience to the scholar, but 
subservience to an ideology of pragmatism. Neither idea 
was to Stimer’s liking, “. . . only scholars come out of the 
menageries of the humanists, only ‘useful citizens’ out of 
those of the realists, both of whom are indeed nothing but 
subservient people.” Education for practical life, Stimer 
believed, produced people of principle who acted accord- 
ing to maxims. “Most college students,” he stated, “are 
living examples of this sad turn of events. Trained in the 
most excellent manner, they go on in training; drilled, they 
continue drilling .” 2 0 

In the framework of Stimer’s argument the growth of 
public schools in the nineteenth century takes on added 
meaning. As we have pointed out, the schools were tied to 
the idea of turning out useful citizens trained for practical 
life. The school assumed responsibility for the whole child. 
Individual free will and initiative became subservient to the 
expertise of the teacher. The enslavement of the individual 
was the result of the actions of the individual being turned 
over to the production line of education. 
l|ii To understand this concept fully one must place it 

within the broad historical framework of the development 
of the school. What Stimer was witnessing in the nine- 
teenth-century school was the steady institutionalization 
of the socialization process. Some form of school had 
always existed in Western society but its role had been 
what Tolstoy referred to as instruction and teaching, not 
education. Schools existed often on a voluntary basis to 


teach reading, writing, and skills needed for the church or 
business. Churches, of course, developed schools for their 
own moral purposes. Most of the ways an individual 
learned how to act were a part of growing and living within 
the family and community. There was little separation 
between the socialization process and the world in which 
individuals acted out their lives. Willing and acting were a 
part of life and one saw one’s actions as a product of one’s 
interactions with society. 

The school was fast becoming the central agency for 
socialization, though. It was assuming more and more 
responsibility for completely educating or shaping the 
individual. Socialization became more a product of the life 
of the school than of the life of the community. By the 
end of the nineteenth century, educators like John Dewey 
were expressing concern about this situation, demanding 
that the school become a community that reflected the 
real life of the surrounding world. From the viewpoint of 
educators like Dewey the school had to be accepted as the 
central agency of socialization— the problem was to make 
it effective by turning it into a real community. 

Stirner asserted that within the school knowledge did 
not grow as part of a process of action and exercise of will, 
but was taught by a teacher and then acted upon by the 
student. What the school really taught the individual was 
how to be a learner. This took Stirner far beyond many 
other libertarian educators of the nineteenth century. He 
would have rejected Ferrer, not because Ferrer wanted a 
non-dogmatic education, but because he wanted a school. 
In Tolstoy’s terms, Stimer wanted a society where 
socialization was a product of culture and not of edu- 
cation. Ownership of self meant freedom from dogma and 
moral imperatives and a will that did not depend on 
authoritarian sources. Ownership of self meant freedom 
from schools themselves. 

In the twentieth century this theme has been elaborated 
upon by Ivan Illich. Illich sees the teacher-student relation- 


ship as the backbone of the enslavement of modem 
humanity to a mass consumer society. He argues that what 
people learn in school is to trust the judgment of the 
educator and distrust their own judgment. In school one 
learns proper and socially useful ways of working, study- 
ing, using leisure time, and enjoying life. This prepares one 
to accept a society that provides packages and programs 
for all aspects of life. The will is frozen until an expert 
prescribes or approves. Illich wrote in 1971, 

... in a service centered economy man is estranged 
from what he can “do” as well as from what he can 
“make,” ... he has delivered his mind and heart over 
to therapeutic treatment even more completely than 
he has sold away the fruits of his labor. 

For Illich, “Schools have alienated man from his learning.” 
The process of schooling turns the individual completely 
over to the control and authority of experts and in- 
stitutions. 2 1 

Explicit in Illich ’s thinking and implicit in Stimer’s is 
the idea that the only solution would be the creation of a 
society in which schools would neither exist nor be 
necessary. This would not mean the end of institutions to 
pass on skills, but the end of institutions with curriculums 
designed to make people into something, to manipulate 
them. Knowledge and learning within such a society would 
be linked to real-life processes and personal usefulness. 
Knowledge and learning would not be placed in a special 

Implied in the concept of a society without schools is 
the end of all other institutions which are breeding 
grounds for dogma and moral imperatives. In a sense the 
church and state are themselves schools, with ideas of how 
people should act and what they ought to be. A society 
without schools would be one without institutions of 
mysticism and authority. It would be a society of 


self-regulation where institutions would be products of 
personal need and usefulness and not sources of power. 

Certainly Francisco Ferrer might have responded to the 
idea of deschooling society by saying that one could not 
wish a non-authoritarian society into being and that the 
Modem School was the beginning of a plan to move in that 
direction. Stirner never fully dealt with the problem of 
passing on knowledge without filling the head with wheels 
and ideals. But he was sure, as Elizabeth Burns Ferm (an 
American educator and eventually the head of an Amer- 
ican -style Modem School) wrote in 1907, that the 
educator to be avoided was the one that endeavored “to 
make and leave an impression on the child.” 2 2 

IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY libertarian groups have 
tried to implement these educational goals, either by 
creating non-authoritarian schools or by rejecting the 
concept of schooling altogether. Those who sought to 
establish libertarian institutions of schooling envisioned 
learning centers that would avoid the institutionalization 
of controls. 

One of the problems that has confronted contemporary 
libertarians is that they live in a highly organized and 
rationalized technological society which leaves little room 
for the individual to grow and develop through the 
exercise of individual will. Urban industrial society is 
already so highly organized that children can find little 
opportunity to explore and construct their own world. 
Added to this is the uniformity of the equipment available 
to educational leaders— mass-produced learning aids and 
playthings which are used to rationalize the development 
of the individual. The libertarian tradition requires not 


only freedom from the imposition of ideology but also 
freedom for self-development, and the twentieth century 
has witnessed a wide variety of educational experiments 
designed to create environments for self-development. 

The Modem School movement begun by Ferrer and 
A.S. Neill’s Summerhill represent part of this libertarian 
concern; in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was further evidenced 
in a very widespread movement for the establishment of 
“free schools” and alternative forms of education. The free 
school movement was an attempt to establish an environ- 
ment for self-development in a world that was considered 
overly structured and rationalized. One of the precursors 
of the “free school” idea of the 1960’s, for instance, was 
the development of the “free playground” movement in 
the 1940’s. This movement was an expression of libertar- 
ian concern about reshaping the world so that people 
could control and use it for their own purposes. 2 3 The 
first free playground was begun in Copenhagen in 1943 
and shortly after World War II the idea spread to Sweden, 
Switzerland, and the United States. In Stockholm the 
playground was known as “Freetown,” in Minneapolis as 
“The Yard,” and in Switzerland as “Robinson Crusoe 
playgrounds.” The basic principle of the adventure play- 
ground was that it was equipped only with raw material 
and tools, lumber, nails, junk metal, shovels, and building 
equipment. There was no manufactured equipment such as 
swings or see-saws; essentially the children were given the 
means to build, destroy, and rebuild their playgrounds. 2 4 

The interesting thing about the adventure playground 
movement is its implicit criticism of a new component of 
authoritarian control: the urban-industrial environment 
itself, as represented in the highly structured school and 
playground. Manufactured equipment on the playground 
tends to structure play itself, and leave little room for 
creativity or experiment. In this sense a free school or a 
free playground could provide an opportunity for the child 
to experience an unstructured environment. 


In this context one can understand that libertarian 
involvement in the free school movement of the 1960’s 
was taking one solution to the problem of education : free 
schools as an oasis from authoritarian control and as a 
means of passing on the knowledge to be free. On the 
surface one could argue that the term “free school” was 
contradictory. How could a school be free if, as Tolstoy 
argued, a school was a conscious attempt to turn one into 
a “something”? The free school movement was, and still is, 
a very complex phenomenon with roots partly in Freudian 
and Reichian psychology, as represented in A.S. Neill’s 
Summerhill, and partly in traditional libertarian concerns 
about authority, as best exemplified in Ferrer and the 
Modern Schools. Part of the movement can be explained, 
as we shall see in the chapter on Reich and Neill, in terms 
of changing psychological perspectives, and part of the 
movement can be explained in terms of an attempt to 
provide a free and unstructured environment. George 
Dennison, one of the popular leaders of the free school 
movement, wrote in 1966 that his “First Street School is 
radical and experimental. There are no grades, no graded 
report cards, no competitive examinations. No child is 
compelled to study or answer questions when he does not 
want to.” 2 5 At first glance there would appear to be very 
little that was “radical” about a situation without grades, 
report cards, or examinations. After all, that is the way 
things “should” be. But placed in a broader perspective, 
these changes were radical in the sense that the First Street 
School represented a refuge from a society that was highly 
structured and graded and left little room for self- 

One of the major spokesmen for the free school 
movement was America’s leading libertarian philosopher, 
Paul Goodman. Goodman wrote not only about schooling 
but also about the nature and direction of modem society. 
He was one of the leading spokesmen for the decentraliza- 
tion of urban and technological structures. Concerned with 


maximizing individual autonomy, he argued for the decen- 
tralization of industry to a local level so that the individual 
could directly control the use of technology. In the same 
manner he argued for decentralization and democratic 
local control of bureaucracies. 2 6 

Goodman continued the libertarian tradition by arguing 
that schooling had become a process by which the 
individual was stamped, graded, certified, and returned to 
society. All of this, he argued, was for the benefit of the 
ruling industrial elite. He wrote in Compulsory Mis- 
Education in the early 1960’s that the real function of 
education was to grade and market skills. “This means, in 
effect, that a few great corporations are getting the benefit 
of an enormous weeding out and selective process— all 
children are fed into the mill and everybody pays for 
it.” 2 7 Goodman’s plans for education involved the decen- 
tralization of large and cumbersome school systems and 
the establishment of small-scale schools. He offered a plan 
which together with A.S. Neill’s ideas gave direction to the 
free school movement. Goodman suggested that in some 
cases schools could dispense with their classes and use 
streets, stores, museums, movies, and factories as places of 
learning. The use of certified teachers could be dispensed 
with and people like the druggist, the storekeeper, and the 
factory worker could be used as teachers. And, most 
important, the school would be non -compulsory. Within 
cities it would be reduced to a mini-school which through 
decentralization would be influenced by the desires of the 
students and the neighborhood community. 2 8 

IT WAS IVAN ILLICH in the late 1960’s who gave the 
libertarian tradition new life both in terms of criticisms 
and proposals. Illich argues that schools themselves are the 


problem. They are a source of ideological control, and 
they reproduce and reinforce the existing social structure. 
The schools also serve to alienate people from their 
learning and make them dependent on the authority of 
institutions and experts. Illich ’s proposals for deschooling 
society overcome some of the inherent problems of the 
free school movement. The free school movement has 
assumed the need for something called a school to 
overcome the problems of an existing structured society. 
The danger lies in the possibility that the free school 
would become even more therapeutic, and create even 
more dependency , than the established school. What 
individuals might actually learn in such a school was that 
they needed an institution to give them freedom. Illich 
rejects the concept of the free school and argues that true 
autonomy can result only from changes in institutional 
styles. It is within this context that the deschooling of 
society is to take place. 

Ivan Illich ’s concept of what education should be is very 
much like Tolstoy’s. In fact, one could argue that he is 
within this traditional stream of Christian anarchism. Both 
Illich and Tolstoy want people to have the chance to 
experience culture without the creation of an institution 
called the school which tries consciously to turn people 
into something, to shape people according to a pre- 
conceived goal, by means of an organized curriculum. 

The most pressing problem of the modem world, Illich 
argues, is to change the style of institutions and tech- 
nology so that they work for the benefit of the individual. 
A series of “public utilities” for education which people 
could use for their own purposes would serve this goal. 
These utilities would be organized so that no one could 
gain a position of power in them. Essentially what Illich 
proposes is dividing the functions of schooling into 
separate and distinct units. For instance, he suggests a 
public utility that would be an information center, a kind 
of expanded library where books and other media would 


be available, as well as information on such things as 
visiting industrial centers and on opportunities to observe a 
variety of community activities. Another distinct utility 
would be a place where people could register their 
skills— typing, fishing, bricklaying, knowledge of history, 
etc. Those who wished to learn a skill could then find 
someone who had that skill and was willing to teach it. At 
both the information center and the skill center individuals 
would be free to choose whatever information or skills 
they wanted to learn. There would be no one in a position 
to make those decisions for the individual nor decide what 
was in the individual’s best interest. The divorce of the two 
functions would avoid the possibility of the development 
of an extended and graded curriculum. There might be a 
curriculum within a skill like typing, but this curriculum 
would not extend beyond that particular skill. In other 
words, the curriculum planning would be completely 
turned over to the individual. Illich also proposes another 
utility or communications system as a means of linking 
people of common interests. This could be either com- 
puter matching, journals dealing with specific interests, or 
simple notices in which people would register the interests 
that they wished to share . 2 9 

Illich ’s exploration of differing institutional styles ex- 
presses traditional libertarian interests more consistently 
than the free schools, which served as oases of free activity 
but failed to effect any change in the overall structure of 
society. They were schools with planned purposes and as 
■m' such always stood the chance of being used as institutions 

III hi 1 of control. Illich ’s plans emphasize the separation of 

learning and control. In the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries, William Godwin, Max Stimer, Leo Tolstoy, and 
other anarchists recognized this as one of the fundamental 
problems for modern society. In the twentieth century, 
with the expansion of schooling and psychological tech- 
niques of control within the school, the problem has 




KARL MARX REFERRED to Max Stimer as a man in 
revolt against the “rule of thoughts,” who believed that if 
you taught people “to knock them out of their heads . . . 
existing reality . . . would collapse .” 1 This, Marx said, was 
very much like believing that drowning resulted from 
people being possessed with the idea of gravity; if you 
knocked the idea out of their heads by showing it to be a 
superstition or a religious idea, it “would be proof against 
any danger from water.” It was not enough to talk about 
the “spooks” controlling human consciousness without 
talking about the social reality which produced those 
spooks. This link between social reality and consciousness 
had important implications for pedagogical methods, 
becoming a key element in the educational proposals of 
twentieth-century humanist psychologists like Carl Rogers 
and in the pedagogical techniques of the Brazilian educator 
Paulo Freire. 


Paulo Freire, in conducting literacy programs for adults 
in Brazil in the mid-twentieth century, developed a 
perspective which combined educational methods with this 
Marxian concept of consciousness. The separation of 
thought and action is overcome by linking learning to will 
and social action. Learning becomes an instrument for 
individual liberation. Freire first set forth his educational 
method in his doctoral dissertation at the University of 
Recife in Brazil in 1959. While working as Professor of 
History and Philosophy of Education at the same univer- 
sity, his teaching methods were implemented throughout 
the northeastern part of Brazil. After the military coup of 
1964, Freire was jailed by the government for his 
educational activities. He was “invited” to leave the 
country and spent the next five years working in Chile, 
then became a consultant at Harvard University. Freire’s 
lectures at Ivan Illich’s Center for Intercultural Documen- 
tation in Mexico in 1970 and 1971 attracted students from 
throughout South America. In Mexico and other Latin 
American countries his techniques have been implemented 
in both rural and urban settings. Freire must be considered 
one of the most important educational philosophers of the 
twentieth century. 

At the heart of Freire’s educational method is a concept 
of humanity which owes its origin to Marx’s concern with 
the development of individual consciousness and alienation 
in modem society. His concept of human potential in 
many ways fulfills the meaning of consciousness as defined 
by Marx and gives expression to Stimer’s concept of 
ownership of self. One must understand Freire’s concept 
of humanity in order to grasp his educational method. 
Freire’s whole technique stands in danger of being trivial- 
ized unless this concept is emphasized. 

The goal of social life, Freire argues, is the humanization 
of the world. By this he means a process by which each 
person becomes conscious of the social forces working 
upon him or her, reflects upon those forces, and becomes 


capable of transforming the world. To be human is to be 
an actor who makes choices and seeks to guide one’s own 
destiny. To be free, to be an actor, means knowing who 
one is and how one has been shaped by the surrounding 
social world. It is one’s social world and environment that 
determine the nature of one’s consciousness and ideology. 
Without a knowledge and awareness of that determination, 
humanization is impossible. 

The opposite of a humanized world, in Freire’s terms, a 
dehumanized world, is one without self-awareness, without 
a consciousness of the historical forces determining exis- 
tence. Without this consciousness people are unable to 
become actors in the stream of history and are simply 
acted upon by history. This condition of oppression is 
what Freire calls the culture of silence. The culture of 
silence can be a product either of simple ignorance or of 
education itself. By being kept in a state of simple 
ignorance, the peasant in Brazil can be locked in this 
culture of silence, never realizing the forces that caused his 
or her poverty. On the other hand, an educational program 
which only assimilates the peasant into the very social 
system which caused impoverishment in the first place, is 
not a liberatory force. Freire would have agreed with 
Stirner that education can produce wheels in the head that 
stand in the way of consciousness of self. 

This concept of humanization implies, as Marx stated, 
that “consciousness can never be anything else than 
conscious existence, and the existence of men is their 
actual life-process.” In a pedagogical sense this means that 
to expand consciousness is to make one aware of one’s life 
processes. From Marx’s standpoint, however, life was not 
determined by consciousness but consciousness by life, 
and it was this criticism that he leveled at Stirner. The 
interaction of an individual with the world determined his 
or her subjective view of the world and of self. In other 
words, an individual learned a concept of self, whom he or 
she was, by the nature of his or her relationships to 


society. Human interaction with the world also produced 
an ideology and an understanding of the world. As Marx 
wrote, “We set out from real, active men, and on the basis 
of their real life-process we demonstrate the development 
of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life- 
process .’' 2 

For Freire, to know the objective world is to begin to 
know oneself. If learning is to be meaningful, it must be 
tied to the life process of the individual. Freire’s method 
of teaching illiterates began with a concrete study of the 
everyday lives of the people. For example, in a small 
village a team of educators would work in cooperation 
with the villagers to develop thematic representations of 
the life processes of the residents. These would then be 
presented to the villagers in the form of pictures, tapes, or 
any appropriate media. The thematic representations 
would contain certain problems and contradictions in the 
culture which could serve as the basis for discussion. In 
Freire’s words, 

Utilizing certain basic contradictions, we must pose 
this existential, concrete, present situation to the 
people as a problem which challenges them and 
requires a response— not just at the intellectual level, 
but at the level of action . 3 

One example presented a scene of a drunken man walking | 
on a street and three men standing on a comer talking. 

This scene was shown to a group of tenement dwellers in 
Santiago to raise questions about the causal relationships 
within their particular social organization and culture . 4 
The discussions resulting from such thematic representa- 
tions would be the source for the words that would form 
the basis of the literacy campaign. 

Language is tied directly to the life processes of the 
learner and thus becomes a source of self-understanding. 

As individuals progress in reading and writing by using 


words that help them understand their world, their 
awareness of self constantly expands. For Freire, acquiring 
literacy through thematic representations becomes a means 
of objectifying the individual’s world. It gives the in- 
dividual the necessary tools for thinking about the world. 
A culture of silence is one in which people are unable to 
distance themselves from their life activity, making it 
impossible for them to rise to the level of reflection. The 
dialogue around thematic representations provides a means 
toward reflection and a basis for both literacy and 
self-c onsciousness . 

Within this framework learning becomes a source of 
liberation and a tool for social change. People are 
dehumanized because they lack a full awareness of their 
life activity. This is why people in a culture of silence do 
nothing to change their world. Freire agrees with Marx 
that “the animal is one with its life activity. It does not 
distinguish the activity from itself. It is its activity .” 5 In 
this sense, those in a culture of silence remain at a level of 
mere animal activity; in fact, the source of economic and 
political oppression is precisely the reduction of human 
beings to this state. Freire wants to restore humanity to 
the oppressed by giving them a conscious life. As Marx 
wrote, “But man makes his life itself an object of his will 
and consciousness. He has a conscious life activity. . . . 
Conscious life activity distinguishes man from the life 
activity of animals .” 6 

For Marx, Freire, and the twentieth-century existen- 
tialist psychologists, it is in the realm of consciousness that 
the contradiction between freedom and determinism is 
overcome. While consciousness and life activity are de- 
termined by material conditions, a person who has no 
consciousness of self, who has nothing but life activity, is 
completely propelled by social forces. But the person who 
is aware of these forces and conscious of their nature is 
able to break with the trajectory of history and participate 
in the radical change of self and society. Rollo May, 


1 J; 


writing about existential psychology in the mid-twentieth 
century, argues that while psychology must recognize 
deterministic factors and human finiteness, 

In the revealing and exploring of these deterministic 
forces in the patient’s life, the patient is orienting 
himself in some particular way to the data and thus is 
engaged in some choice, no matter how seemingly 
insignificant; is experiencing some freedom, no 
matter how subtle . 7 

And it is precisely toward this relationship to the 
individual’s world that Freire’s educational method is 
meant to lead. 

In this method the tying of language and learning to the 
life processes is meant to overcome the separation of 
thought and action. The dialogue based on thematic 
representations of everyday life is meant to grow into a 
greater consciousness of the surrounding social reality. 
Theory and activity are to be brought together in social 
action. According to Freire, “. . . a revolution is achieved 
with neither verbalism nor activism, but rather with praxis, 
that is, with reflection and action directed at the structures 
to be transformed.” A drawing of tenement living condi- 
tions might be presented to the poor of an area and from 
this would grow a reflective process questioning the 
conditions and their social causes. No theory as to why the 
conditions existed would be given to the poor; rather, 
theory would be a product of the reflection and action of 
the people themselves. 

The leaders cannot treat the oppressed as mere 
activists to be denied the opportunity of reflection 
and allowed merely the illusion of acting. ... It is 
absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in 
the revolutionary process with an increasingly critical 
awareness of their role as subjects of the transforma- 
tion . 8 

This praxis would end the separation of thought and 
action that Marx had argued was contributing to human 
fragmentation and alienation. The origins of this sepa- 
ration, according to Marx’s interpretation, lay in the 
historical development of the separation of classes and the 
division of labor. The separation of manual and mental 
labor in the development of civilization permitted the 
separation of consciousness from life activity. Marx wrote 
in The German Ideology that with the division between 
mental and manual labor 

consciousness can really flatter itself that it is 
something other than consciousness of existing prac- 
tice, that it is really conceiving something without 
conceiving something real-, from now on conscious- 
ness is in a position to emancipate itself from the 
world and to proceed to the formation of “pure” 
theory, theology, philosophy, ethics, etc . 9 

Marx also saw this division between theory and practice 
as resulting from the organization of modern industry. In 
Capital he argued that the worker became a mere 
appendage of the machine, trapped in a life of endless 
drudgery and routine. Intellectual and reflective powers 
were not brought into use in manual labor. Marx wrote, 

The separation of the intellectual powers of produc- 
tion from the manual labour, and the conversion of 
those powers into the might of capital over labour, is, 
as we have already shown, finally completed by 
modem industry erected on the foundation of 

People in the modem factory organization were forced 
into specialized and limited roles with the intellectual 
activity a function of the managers and owners. Individual 
skill and worth, Marx argued, “vanishes as an infinitesimal 
quantity before the science, the gigantic physical forces, 



and the mass of labour that are embodied in the factory 
mechanism. . . ,” 1 0 

Separation of thought and action means that theory 
becomes a product of a class which is separated from life 
activity. It means that individuals experience a fragmenta- 
tion of their powers, becoming appendages of the machine 
rather than giving it control or direction. John Dewey, for 
instance, wrote in Education and Democracy that the 
separation of liberal education from industrial and profes- 
sional education was a result “of a division of classes into 
those who had to labor for a living and those who were 
relieved from this necessity.” Workers, he aruged, had no 
insight into the social aims of their work and, conse- 
quently, the “results actually achieved are not the ends of 
their actions, but only of their employers .” 1 1 

FREIRE ARGUES THAT traditional education was prem- 
ised on what he calls the “banking” method of education— 
the idea that a student is an object into which knowledge 
is placed, not a subject in the learning process. This 
banking method of education, Freire argues, shares many 
of the properties of an oppressive society: “the teacher 
teaches and the students are taught”; “the teacher thinks 
and the students are thought about”; “the teacher acts and 
the students have the illusion of acting through the action 
of the teacher”; and “the teacher is the subject of the 
learning process, while the pupils are mere objects .” 12 In 
adult literacy programs the banking theory manifests itself 
in the use of reading material which has little relationship 
to the life activity of the learner. Rather, such programs 
attempt to work upon and change the learner. 

The fact that the banking theory turns the learner into 
an object reflects the assumption that the fundamental 
problem is not with society but with the individual. In 
other words, in the case of poverty a banking system of 


education assumes poverty exists because the poor do not 
know how to function properly within society. The goal of 
education, then, is to change the behavior of the poor so 
that it conforms to the needs of a society which created 
poverty in the first place. In the very process of educating 
the poor, all blame is placed upon them. They are 
condemned, essentially by being told they have failed. 

In this manner the consciousness of the oppressed is 
changed without changing the oppressive conditions of 
society. Education as banking is not liberating but con- 
tributes to the docility and alienation of the oppressed. 
Marx’s concept of alienation illuminates the full meaning 
of Freire’s criticism of the banking method. For Marx, 
work should function to objectify the self and hence 
provide the individual with a source of self-awareness. 
Work or activity that becomes foreign to or alienated from 
the individual— as it does in the case of the banking 
method of education— does not fulfill this function. In 
answer to the question of what constitutes the alienation 
of labor, Marx wrote: “First, that the work is external to 
the worker, that it is not part of his nature; and that, 
consequently, he does not fulfill himself in his work but 
denies himself. . . .” 13 In the same manner the learning 
material of the banking method stands in opposition to the 
learner. Instead of affirming the learner’s life and providing 
tools for greater understanding, it denies that life and 
obscures self-awareness. 

Within this framework Marx’s concept of human aliena- 
tion is very similar to Freire’s concept of the human being 
as the object of teaching. For Marx alienation meant that 
work or life activity is not an object for individual 
fulfillment; rather, the individual becomes a mere object 
used for production. “The alienation of the worker in his 
product,” he wrote, “means not only that his labor 
becomes an object, assumes an external existence, but that 
it exists independently, outside himself, and alien to him, 
and that it stands opposed to him as an autonomous 
power .” 14 

Similarly, in the banking method of education the 
learner’s self becomes an object of the educational process, 
worked upon to achieve goals external to itself. The goals 
and content of this kind of education are not a product of 
the learner, they are not subject to his or her control. The 
learner is viewed as an object, a means for achieving the 
teacher’s end. The object of teaching is not to understand 
the self but to change the individual in accordance with 
alien goals. For instance, the banking method of education 
not only tells the poor they are the problem, but also 
establishes a model of what they should be which is alien 
to what they are. 

The model presented to the oppressed of what they 
should be like is a model shaped by the oppressor. Such a 
model inherently tends to perpetuate the existing social 
structure. Thus both the content and moral imperatives of 
the banking method reflect the ideology of the ruling class. 
As Marx wrote, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every 
epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class, which is the ruling 
material force of society, is at the same time its ruling 
intellectual force .” 1 5 

What the banking method of education achieves is the 
creation of a consciousness which is alien to the learner. 
The poor are given a model based on the life and actions of 
the rich. Such models were just what Stimer had criticized 
as moral imperatives which force people to act in 
contradiction to their own needs and liberation. 

ONE OF THE GOALS of Freire’s method is to bring those 
in a culture of silence to an understanding of self which 
would allow them to expel the internalized image of the 
dominant class. 


. . . when the dominated classes reproduce the dom- 
inators’ style of life, it is because the dominators live 
“within” the dominated. The dominated can eject the 
dominators only by getting distance from them and 
objectifying them. Only then can they recognize 
them as their antitheses . 1 6 

For example, this was precisely the situation confronted 
by black people in the United States in their relationship 
to white society. By internalizing the style of life of the 
white population they were internalizing the very culture 
which had been responsible for slavery and racial segrega- 
tion. For instance, black people discovered that they had 
adopted the same standards of beauty— fair skin and 
Caucasian facial features — as white members of the society. 
The slogan “Black is Beautiful” represented the beginning 
of the ejection of this false consciousness. 

Freire’s method is thus directed both at the expansion 
of consciousness and at the ejection of the false conscious- 
ness created by the structure of society. In this sense he 
combines the traditional Marxist concern about over- 
coming alienation with the traditional libertarian desire for 
freedom from imposed moral imperatives. This means that 
peasants in Latin America must be given the tools to lift 
themselves out of the culture of silence and gain conscious 
control over the social forces affecting their lives. People 
must be helped to see that part of the problem is their own 
acceptance of “success” as it has been defined for them by 
the dominant class. They must begin to treat their own 
lives as authentic and not to reject their own realities on 
the basis of the values of the dominant class. 

Without the ejection of these values, social change 
would mean only that one oppressive faction takes the 
place of another— essentially a change in palace guard 
without any change in the palace. This would not meet the 
criteria of a humanistic revolution, which can only be 
accomplished through individual liberation of conscious- 
ness, through the participation of all people in social 

together reflection and action, can be more fully appre- 
ciated if it is compared to the ideas of a humanist 
psychologist like Carl Rogers. Rogers’ therapy, and what 
he calls student-centered teaching, is based on a concept of 
self-actualization and self-awareness very similar to Freire’s 
ideas. The drive for self-actualization is what Freire calls 
the “humanism of man (sic)”; it is a desire to gain greater 
conscious control over one’s environment. Rogers writes 
that self-actualization means movement “in the direction 
of greater independence or self-responsibility ... in the 
direction of increasing self-government, self -regulation, and 
autonomy, and away from heteronymous control, or 
control by external forces .” 17 Self-actualization is 
achieved through what Rogers calls congruence of the 
personality. “We may say,” he writes, “that freedom from 
inner tension, or psychological adjustment, exists when the 
I concept of self is at least roughly congruent with all the 

experiences of the organism .” 18 In other words, psycho- 
! logical adjustment occurs when one’s concept of self 

corresponds to the forces that have shaped that self. 
Congruence of personality means that one has an aware- 
ness of the social forces shaping personality and an ability 
i to control and give direction to those forces, 

j But humanist psychologists like Rogers fail to relate 

! personality to the structure of society and to go beyond 

“ f self-actualization to the transformation of society. It is 

after all the organization of society which assumes a major 
share of the responsibility for non-congruence and lack of 
self-actualization. The failure to analyze social and polit- 
ical implications is what makes humanist psychology 
superficial. It is more of a technique for management and 
adjustment than for changing society. This is one reason 
why methods like those of Carl Rogers have become 
popular among school leaders in the United States. 


These limitations become apparent when humanist 
psychologists talk about social change. For Carl Rogers the 
key to social change is a self-actualized person who creates 
a climate which allows for self-actualization of other 
people. Rogers calls this the “chain reaction” effect of 
client-centered therapy. 

Here is a theoretical basis for sound interpersonal, 
intergroup, and international relationships. . . . This 
atmosphere of understanding and acceptance is the 
very climate most likely to create a therapeutic 
experience and consequent self-acceptance in the 
person who is exposed to it. 

For Rogers it is the “psychological ‘chain reaction’ 
which appears to have tremendous potentialities for the 
handling of problems of social relationships .” 1 9 This 
is a utopian vision which is to grow from the warm 
acceptance of all people. Compared to Freire’s humanized 
individual engaged in changing self and the world, Rogers’ 
self-actualized person appears incomplete. 

The political and social implications of Freire’s method 
become evident in his demonstration of the relationship 
between levels of individual consciousness and levels of 
development of political and social organization. Indi- 
vidual liberation through education is closely tied to stages 
of social liberation. This relationship clearly is not the 
same as Rogers’ “chain reaction” of acceptance, but is 
rather a process of turning the individual’s learning into 
self -liberation by working to create a liberated society. 

Another important point about Freire’s attempt to link 
levels of conscious development to political and social 
reality is that it makes his educational theory universal, 
establishing its relevance for highly industrialized societies 
as well as for those of the Third World. 

In Freire’s model the lowest level of consciousness is, of 
course, the culture of silence in the peasant societies of the 
Third World. In Latin America this takes the form of a 


rural/urban split, with the rural areas dominated by and 
dependent on the ruling elites of the urban centers. As 
stated above, the dependent society accepts the values and 
life style of the dominator and cannot achieve self- 
awareness. “This results,” Freire writes, 

in the duality of the dependent society, its ambiguity, 
its being and not being itself, and the ambivalence 
characteristic of its long experience of dependency, 
both attracted by and rejecting the metropolitan 
society. 2 0 

Individuals at this level of consciousness tend to ascribe 
the cause of their plight to self-blame or to supernatural 
sources. For example, peasants might feel that hunger is 
caused by their own incapacity or that it represents the 
anger of the gods. In Freire’s educational process dialogue 
about problem situations might at first tend to resort to 
such explanations, but part of the goal of dialogue would 
be to aid in going beyond that level of consciousness. The 
culture of silence also exists in industrial countries. 
Minority groups in the United States, for example, have 
only recently been emerging from their own state of 
dependence, throwing off their self-concepts of natural 
incapacity and their internalization of the values and life 
style of the dominator. 

Freire’s next stage of consciousness and social develop- 
ment is very close to the level of development of most 
industrial countries. He calls this stage naive-transitiveness 
because it refers to the beginning of a popular conscious- 
ness, one which has not fully emerged from the culture of 
silence. At this stage pressure and criticism begin to be 
applied to the dominant groups in the society. The leaders 
of a society might respond to this by allowing superficial 
changes and granting certain political and economic 
privileges in order to maintain their control. But these 
changes would still result in a heightening of popular 


consciousness. The situation would be analogous to a 
prison in which an attempt is made to satisfy discontent 
by allowing prisoners to exercise outdoors. The result for 
the prisoners would be a heightened awareness of their 
imprisonment. When a minor social reform is made, people 
may gain an understanding of critical social problems and 
may push for even greater changes. 

In describing the transition of consciousness Freire is 
trying to describe the developing political conditions in 
both the Third World and industrialized countries. He 
argues that the contradictions at the stage of naive-transi- 
tiveness foster the growth of a populist leadership which 
attempts to exploit the awakening consciousness of the 
people for its own gain. At this stage, because the masses 
cannot speak for themselves, they depend on populist 
leaders. At the same time intellectuals and students start to 
become engaged in social projects. Art becomes directed 
toward problems of concrete social reality. The inherent 
contradiction at this stage results from populist leaders 
allowing the participation of youth groups and intellec- 
tuals in the political process in order to control them. This 
allows for the development of revolutionary leaders within 
the political process itself. Freire’s description of this stage 
of transition of consciousness sounds very much like the 
situation in the United States in the 1960’s and early 
1970’s. Populist political leaders attempted to manipulate 
popular opinion by seeking help from intellectuals and 
youth and by using protests of these groups to cement 
their own political ranks. 

For Freire, the revolutionary leadership would be 
comprised of those who help the masses move from the 
levels of semi-intransitive or naive-transitive consciousness 
to the level of critical consciousness. He argues that if the 
masses are not made the subject of the revolutionary 
process rather than its object, the revolutionary project 
will move to the right. A truly liberating revolution is one 
in which the people assume the role of active subjects in 




the transforming and recreating of the world. Freire sums 
up the difference between cultural action of the left and of 
the right: “The former problematizes, the latter slogan- 
izes.” The right-wing revolutionary assumes that people 
have to be shaped to fit the “utopian” vision of the 
leaders. The left-wing revolutionary assumes that the 
people themselves must make the utopian vision. 

For Freire the role of a critical consciousness cannot 
stop even with the birth of a revolutionary society. Critical 
consciousness plays a role in ejecting those cultural myths 
which remain. It is also “a force countering the bureau- 
cracy, which threatens to deaden the revolutionary vision 
and dominate the people in the very name of their 
freedom.” While Freire does not speak directly of the 
Russian revolution, it is probably the example he had in 
mind. The failure of the revolutionary cause and the swing 
to the right in the Soviet Union can be linked to the defeat 
of the power of the local soviets and the end of the mass 
participation of the people in the revolutionary en- 
deavor . 2 1 The large-scale bureaucratic machinery that 
developed made the people into mere objects of economic 
and social planning, instead of active, critical subjects with 
control over social institutions. The new “socialist man 
and woman” have yet to be bom in the Soviet Union. 

Revolutionary change would not necessarily result from 
the contradictions arising under populist leadership, how- 
ever. The other possible direction, Freire believes, along 
with Illich and others, would be the creation of a mass 
society. This would involve a change in consciousness from 
the transitive state to a pathological form of “irrational 
consciousness.” Highly technological societies may be 
moving toward a future where specialization in work 
becomes so narrow that people are generally incapable of 
thinking. In a dehumanized mass society, people no longer 
participate in the transformation of society. Freire writes, 
“Men begin thinking and acting according to the prescrip- 
tions they receive daily from the communications media 



rather than in response to their dialectical relationships 
with the world.” In a mass society almost all consciousness 
of self is lost. Gone is the element of risk and planning on 
an individual level. “They do not have to think about even 
the smallest things; there is always some manual which 
says what to do in situation ‘a’ or ‘b’.” The mass society is 
a well-schooled society where people have given up 
independent thinking for mere learning based on expert 
advice. As in one of Freire’s examples, “Rarely do men 
have to pause at a street comer to think which direction to 
follow. There’s always an arrow which de-problematizes 
the situation.” While street signs are not evil “they are 
among thousands of directional signals in a technological 
society which, introjected by men, hinder their capacity 
for critical thinking .” 2 2 

While Freire’s educational work grew out of a concern 
for the problems of South American society it has 
universal relevance as a definition of humanism and as an 
educational method. Obviously the method is not limited 
to one age group but can be applied to all people in all 
societies. If one applies the model to a country like the 
United States, for example, it raises some very important 
issues. It has already been suggested that within this 
framework minority groups in the United States can be 
considered as being at the level of a culture of silence or at 
a level of intransitive consciousness. Furthermore, the 
majority of other Americans can be classified as being in a 
state of transitive consciousness or existing with the 
“irrational consciousness” of a mass society. The concept 
of mass society represents an extension of Freire’s crit- 
icism of the banking method of education. The individual, 
an object within the mass society, is taught how to use his 
or her tools and conveniences properly. In such a society 
no situation becomes problematical or calls for individual 
praxis. People are dehumanized because of the lack of 
interrelationship between consciousness and practice. 

It seems obvious what Freire’s method means for a 


country like the United States. It means that learning must 
result from praxis. Learning must be directly connected to 
social problems and used to solve those problems. It means 
a recognition of the teaching of reading as the most 
political act in the educational process. Language is the 
tool an individual uses to relate to his or her world. Taught 
in the manner of the banking method, it becomes a tool 
for the stifling of consciousness. Taught as part of a 
continued expansion of consciousness, it becomes an 
instrument for self-liberation. To be taught how to read in 
a situation which is completely abstracted from self- 
understanding is to be, in Illich’s terms, “well-schooled.” 
Black people in the United States certainly discovered this 
when they began to look closely at the white, small-town 
bias of public school text books. 

One can go about implementing Freire’s methods in 
various ways, depending on the skills and the imagination 
of the group leader. For instance, one might teach reading 
in a middle-class suburb by beginning with some thematic 
representation of a community problem— pollution, per- 
haps, or, on a more unsophisticated level for small 
children, one might take up such everyday themes as play, 
fights, or family problems. The leader and the children 
engage in a dialogue about the nature of the problem. 
From this initial dialogue words are taken that begin to 
form the basic text for reading. The children then work to 
solve the problem, reflect on their attempted solutions, 
add new words and stories to their readers and attempt to 
develop theories about the situation. In a poor urban area 
themes dealing with crime, poverty, family problems, and 
pollution could be used. In both examples the actual 
themes would not be chosen until after careful investi- 
gation. In this manner action, learning and consciousness 
would develop together. 

FREIRE’S METHOD DEPENDS on dealing with real and 
important problems. The problems cannot be artificial 
classroom contrivances. This, of course, means that 
whether the method is trivialized or not depends on the 
group leader. Freire assumes that the contradictions of the 
culture of transitive consciousness will produce that 
revolutionary leadership. This optimism might not be 
shared by everyone. 

There is also an assumption in Freire’s method that 
people will want to become self-aware and that once this is 
accomplished, they will act in their own interests and in a 
rational manner. For what if people resist real freedom and 
self-awareness? The problem of individual freedom extends 
beyond just consciousness to include human character 
structure. For example, Wilhelm Reich argued that Marx 
would not have been able to explain the rise of fascism in 
Germany in the 1930’s because he lacked the tools for 
understanding character structure, especially the particular 
character structure which sought the security of an 
authoritarian state. From this particular view the imple- 
mentation of Freire’s humanized world requires another 
element. It requires liberating the character structure of 
the individual so that self-awareness and a desire for 
self-determination become possible. It also implies that the 
establishment of a liberated world means changing child- 
rearing patterns and the family, so that people desire to be 
and can be free. 






CERTAINLY MAX STIRNER’S formulation of ownership 
of self and Paulo Freire’s educational methods are meant 
to lead to basic changes in the individual. But one of the 
possible limitations of their arguments is that character 
structure is deeply rooted in the early stages of the child’s 
psychic development. That is, whether a child develops an 
authoritarian or non-authoritarian style of social conduct 
might depend more on early development than on later 
forms of socialization such as formal education. 

Concern about child-rearing practices and their relation- 
ship to political and social revolution has centered around 
the organization of the family itself. The value of 
collective child-rearing practices versus the traditional 
nuclear family is one of the major issues raised. The two 
most important figures in this dialogue have been Wilhelm 
Reich and A.S. Neill, who were closely associated in their 
work during their later years. 


Wilhelm Reich’s belief that the nature of child rearing 
was directly related to forms of social organization, 
resulted from his attempt to combine the sociology of 
Marx with a reinterpretation of Freudian analysis. Reich 
believed that it was possible for people to dispense with 
the irrationalism of politics and government and to 
establish what he called a “work-democracy” on the basis 
of a self-regulating character structure. This would be a 
society free of all authoritarian institutions— including the 
political state— where social relationships would evolve 
from economic organizations which would be created by 
the workers themselves. He linked the authoritarian 
character structure, which desired control by authoritarian 
institutions, to child-rearing methods and sexual repres- 
sion. For Reich the central educational task of the 
twentieth century was sexual liberation and abolition of 
the patriarchal family. When in 1937 A.S. Neill, the 
founder of the Summerhill School in England, first met 
Reich, Neill said, “Reich, you are the man I’ve been 
looking for for years, the man who joins up the somatic 
with the psychological. Can I come to you as a student?” 1 
This association with Reich, which began after their initial 
meeting in 1937, proved important in the development of 
Neill’s ideas, as we shall see later. 

regulating character structure one must understand his 
differences with Freud. One of the basic points on which 
they differed was the nature of aggression. Freud, 
supporting an extremely conservative social philosophy, 
argued that aggression was an innate human instinct and 
that one’s relationship to civilization and to oneself was 
best described in terms of conflict between the competing 
instincts of thanatos (death) and eros (love) and reality. In 
Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud claimed that social 


order could only be maintained by the repression and 
control of the aggressive death instinct. This control was 
the function of authoritarian institutions. Freud’s picture 
of civilization is not pleasant or hopeful. Humanity is torn 
between eros, the passions of embracing the world, and 
thanatos, the desire to destroy it. As civilization pro- 
gresses, the aggressive instincts have to be repressed, 
resulting in aggression toward self and increased feelings of 
guilt. For Freud the inevitable price humanity pays for the 
progress of civilization is increased authority and guilt. 2 

If accepted, these cultural pronouncements undercut 
the basis of utopian and revolutionary thought. Following 
Freud, the most that one could achieve would be an 
unhappy truce between one’s self and society. And 
authoritarian institutions are necessary to control aggres- 
sion and to guide the development of a strong superego. 
Freud’s agrument is essentially one for “law and order.” It 
suggests that if all police, laws, and traditional authori- 
tarian child-rearing methods were dispensed with the result 
would be the unleashing of thanatos and a bloodbath of 
mutual destruction. 

Reich rejected Freud’s concept of a death instinct. 
Instead, he believed that cruel and aggressive character 
traits were the result of authoritarian, sexually repressive 
child-rearing practices. Sexual repression resulted in sexual 
anxiety, which in turn caused a general pleasure anxiety. 
Inability to experience pleasure and aggressive character 
traits, Reich argued, were always found together. On the 
other hand, ability to experience pleasure and non-hostile 
character traits were also linked. At the center of Reich’s 
concept of pleasure were the sexual drives. Unlike Freud, 
who believed these drives were in conflict with the 
aggressive instincts, Reich saw aggressiveness as the prod- 
uct of the repression of sexual drives. In the 1920’s, 
comparing sadistic and non-sadistic character traits, Reich 
wrote, “The mildness and kindness of individuals capable 


of genital satisfaction was striking in contrast. I have never 
seen individuals capable of genital satisfaction who had 
sadistic character traits.” 3 

The revolutionary nature of Reich’s argument was that 
it offered the possibility of planning a system of education 
and even organizing a whole society, so as to eliminate 
hostility and authoritarianism. It also suggested a method 
of analyzing political structures in terms of their child- 
i i j rearing practices. Authoritarian and repressive political 

structures could be linked to educational practices which 
reflected the same traits. This, Reich argued in the Mass 
! j Psychology of Fascism, was certainly the case with the rise 

i of fascism in Germany. He explained in The Sexual 

Revolution that because of the Russian revolution’s failure 
to carry out the promises of its early years— the revolu- 
tionary moral codes and experimental practices in educa- 
tion and child rearing— it had resulted not, as he had 
hoped, in a non-repressive society, but in the emergence of 
an authoritarian one. 

I One of the primary aims of a revolutionary movement 

must be the freeing of the character structure of the 
people. This, Reich argued, could not be accomplished on 
a mass scale through the use of psychotherapy. While 
mental health clinics might be able to help a few patients, 
their overall impact was quite limited. In the 1920’s, after 
eight years of work in a psychoanalytic clinic, Reich 
I realized that “Psychoanalysis is not a therapy for large- 

scale application.” 4 Patients in the clinic required a daily 
*i ! hour of therapy for at least six months. The only hope was 

in prevention. This meant ridding society of what Reich 
considered its most repressive institutions: compulsive 
marriage and the patriarchal family. Compulsive marriage 
refers to the traditional social demands that sexual 
relationships be limited to marriage and that marriage 
should be honored and maintained for the entire life of the 
partners. At the heart of these two institutions lay a 
repressive sexual morality. 


Reich’s emphasis on revolutionary institutional changes 
reflected his rejection of the conservative tendency of 
psychology and his interest in Marxist social philosophy. A 
distinction had to be made between reactionary psy- 
chology and social psychology. His example of this 
distinction involved the type of questions that might be 
raised about individuals who steal when they are hungry or 
go on strike when they are exploited. Reactionary psy- 
chology, Reich argued, would try “to explain the theft and 
the strike in terms of supposed irrational motives; reaction- 
ary rationalizations are invariably the result.” On the other 
hand, social psychology would not feel it necessary to 
explain why some people steal when hungry or strike when 
exploited but would try to explain “why the majority of 
those who are hungry don’t steal and why the majority of 
those exploited don’t strike.” 5 

The questions raised by social psychology, Reich felt, 
provided the missing ingredient in Marxist social philos- 
ophy. The scientific sociology of Marx did not have the 
tools to explain why all exploited workers did not strike. 
The rationale and techniques of exploitation could be 
explained by Marxism, but the workers’ acceptance of 
exploitation could not be. Social-economic reasoning 
could not explain thoughts and actions which were 
inconsistent with economic interests and situations. Reich 
believed that Marx would not have been able to explain 
why a majority of German workers supported the rise of 
fascism. What was lacking in the freedom movements in 
Germany, Reich argued, “was a comprehension of ir- 
rational, seemingly purposeless actions or, to put it 
another way, of the cleavage between economy and 
ideology.” What had to be realized was that it was not 
only the case, as Marx stated, that “the ideas of the ruling 
class are the ruling ideas” but that, as Reich stated, “every 
social order produces in the masses of its members that 
structure which it needs to achieve its main aims.” In the 
case of fascism in Germany the supporting authoritarian 


character structure of the masses was a product of the 
repressive nature of the German family. 6 

Reich’s goal was the elimination of cruelty and hostility 
in people’s characters by bringing about major institutional 
changes. Reich held that the individual had a character 
armor which resulted in an inability to function sponta- 
neously and naturally. This “armor” was a product of the 
historical experience of the individual. “The whole expe- 
riential world of the past was alive in the present in the 
form of character attitudes. The make-up of a person is the 
functional sum total of all his past experiences.” Individual 
therapy was an attempt to break through these armored 
layers of character. Reich found that this therapeutic 
process revealed that the destructiveness in a person’s 
character was nothing but anger “about frustration in 
general and denial of sexual gratification in particular.” 
Destructiveness in the individual character was in this case 
a reaction to the inability to find pleasure. This inability to 
find or experience pleasure resulted in pleasure anxiety 
and character armor which both protected the individual 
from pleasure and produced hostility to all pleasure- 
producing experiences. Reich argued that pleasure anxiety 
and character armor could explain why people were willing 
to sacrifice their happiness to authoritarian institutions 
and social customs. Character armor not only drives people 
to a joyless life, but also makes them demand that others 
conform to authoritarian structures. The central mech- 
anism of pleasure was, of course, sexual. Reich argued that 
as individuals encountered barriers to the satisfaction of 
the sexual urge, they began to hate. If there were no social 
outlets for expressing hatred, it became inhibited and 
internalized. 7 The type of character produced by this 
armoring was one most amenable to authoritarian or 
fascist political organizations. 

It was primarily sexual anxiety, and pleasure anxiety in 
general, then, which inhibited the expression of both love 
and hatred. The individual not only developed destructive 


character traits, but was driven by anxiety to depend on 
authority. In the 1920’s Reich realized, in what he himself 
later regarded as one of his most important conclusions, 
that “the orgastically unsatisfied individual develops an 
insincere character and a fear of any behavior which he has 
not thought out beforehand. . . .” 8 In other words, the 
individual becomes incapable of spontaneous and natural 
actions and seeks refuge in safe and dependent actions. 
Because of pleasure anxiety about acting, people are driven 
to seek security in an authoritarian structure which will 
dictate their actions. 

Reich’s utopian vision called for replacing this rigid 
character structure with a self -regulating character, thereby 
decreasing individual dependence on authoritarian struc- 
tures. He noted that a breakdown in people’s character 
armor brought about major changes in their social 
customs, work and independence. Individuals who had 
been highly moral suddenly found moralistic attitudes 
alien and queer. Reich wrote, “. . . they might have 
previously defended the principle of premarital chastity, 
now they felt such a demand as grotesque.” Similar 
reactions took place with regard to work style. Individuals 
who had worked mechanically and viewed work as a 
necessary evil began to seek jobs in which they were 
interested. People whose jobs were already inherently 
interesting became more absorbed in their work. Teachers 
who had not been critical of present educational tech- 
niques began to find the usual method of treating children 
intolerable. The creation of a self -regulating character 
often led to a complete breakdown of the work ethic. 
Workers who had previously worked out of a compulsive 
sense of duty found the work unbearable once they were 
relieved of this compulsion. 9 

In many ways Reich’s concept of self -regulated char- 
acter is like Max Stimer’s concept of ownership of self. 
For example, in contrasting moral regulation with self- 
regulation Reich wrote that, “the individual with a moral 


character structure performs his work without inward 
participation, as a result of the demands of a ‘Thou shalt’ 
which is alien to the ego.” 10 Moral regulation created an 
armor which was not within the control of the individual. 
In Stimer’s terms, it created moral duties which owned the 
individual. Or, as Reich wrote, 

The moralistic bureaucrat remains so even in bed. The 
healthy character type, on the other hand, is able to 
close up in one place and open up in another. He is in 
command of his armor, because it does not have to 
keep back forbidden impulses. 1 1 

For Reich a person with a self-regulated character was 
free of all hostility and conducted his or her life on the 
basis of desire and pleasure. Established moral codes were 
replaced with individual regulation. Reich, unlike Freud, 
did not believe this would lead to chaos. On the contrary, 
he saw people as being social and loving by nature. For 
example, women who were trapped in compulsive marriage 
and only performed the sexual act out of marital duty, 
lived a life of constant frustration. But free of compulsive 
marriage and pleasure anxiety, Reich argued, men and 
women would usually seek one mate who loved and 
satisfied them. This new kind of morality was to be 
governed by genital satisfaction and desire. “An unsatis- 
factory act was abstained from not because of fear, but 
because it failed to provide sexual happiness.” 1 2 

It is important to realize that for Reich one of the most 
important elements in the sexual act was making the 
partner happy; this was one of the foundations of a 
satisfactory sexual experience. It was also the foundation 
of a non-repressive, non-authoritarian society. Self- 
regulation implied the ability to seek pleasure by trying to 
give someone else pleasure. The self-regulated character 
was one who was free of hostility, who owned himself or 
herself, who quested for pleasure and whose quest for 
pleasure meant giving happiness to others. 


For Reich the heart of the sexuality problem was the 
compulsory monogamous marriage. In a study of anthro- 
pological literature written in 1931, Reich argued that the 
historical development of the patriarchial family and 
monogamous marriage paralleled the transition from a 
primeval economic work-democracy to the capitalist state. 
The concentration of wealth within one stratum of society 
resulted from the economic institution of marriage: in 
order to keep wealth within the family from generation to 
generation, the sexual activity of the female had to be 
restricted before and after marriage. Reich quoted from 
Engels’ The Origin of the Family, “The first class-conflict 
that appears in history coincides with the development of 
the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous 
marriage and the first class-suppression with that of the 
female sex by the male sex. . . .”* 3 

The economic function of the family gave way to an 
ideological function with the rise of the national state and 
industrialism. The family became the primary educational 
institution for training the child for an authoritarian 
society. Reich referred to the modem family as a “factory 
for authoritarian ideologies and conservative struc- 
tures.” 14 It was both the structure of the family and its 
repression of sexuality that prepared the child for the 
state. In the middle-class home, Reich argued, the father 
functioned within the family as the representative of the 
authority of the state. 

The educational function of the family, too, was 
directly aimed at its own perpetuation. Children were 
sexually inhibited in preparation for future marriage. 
During the crucial ages of four to six they were usually 
denied the opportunity for sexual play and their attempts 
at masturbation were frustrated and condemned by their 
parents. Reich recognized certain class differences with 
regard to the treatment of children. In general, middle- 
class children were more inhibited than working-class 
children. This did not mean that working-class families 


were sexual paradises. On the contrary, many problems 
arose because of crowded housing and because of identifi- 
cation with the middle class. 

An added problem for children within the family 
structure was that they became targets for the hostility 
and cruelty which resulted from their parents’ own sexual 
repression. For parents, and especially mothers, children 
became the only content of their lives— to the great 
disadvantage of the children. Children came to “play the 
role of household pets whom one can love but also 
torture. . . ,” 1 5 Children within the family structure were 
often objects of sadistic love, leading to the development 
of even more hostility within their own characters. With 
the family playing a major role in the education of the 
child, this relationship of hostility came to be perpetuated 
from one generation to another. 

This combination of sadistic love, authoritarian struc- 
ture, and sexual repression made the family the most 
important institution for political education. On the one 
hand, its function was to reproduce itself by “crippling 
people sexually.” On the other hand, “[The family] 
creates the individual who is forever afraid of life and of 
authority and thus creates again and again the possibility 
that masses of people can be governed by a handful of 
powerful individuals.” 1 6 It was not accidental, Reich 
contended, that conservative and reactionary youths were 
strongly attached to their families while revolutionary 
youth tended to reject their families. 

It was in the Mass Psychology of Fascism, published in 
1933, that Reich made his most brilliant statement of the 
relationship between compulsory sexual morality, the 
family, and the authoritarian state. The central question in 
his study of fascism was why people supported a party 
whose leadership was opposed to the interests of the 
working masses. In approaching this problem he made 
important distinctions between elements in each social 
class which supported Hitler’s authoritarian dictatorship. 


Small farmers, bureaucrats and the middle class, while 
different in terms of economic situation, shared the same 
family situation— the very situation which, as Reich had 
previously argued, produced the authoritarian personality. 
This family situation also promoted nationalism and 
militarism. The emotional core of ideas like homeland and 
nation, he argued, were the ideas of mother and family. 
The working class, however, had at one time displayed a 
somewhat looser family arrangement and thus had not 
been oriented so much toward nationalism as toward an 
international workers’ movement. In the middle class, on 
the other hand, the family indeed was a nation in 
miniature and the mother was the homeland of the child. 
Reich quoted the Nazi Goebbels: “Never forget that your 
country is the mother of your life.” On Mother’s Day the 
Nazi press declared, “She— the German mother— is the sole 
bearer of the idea of the German nation. The idea of 
‘Mother’ is inseparable from the idea of being German.” As 
for militarism, Reich argued that it represented a substi- 
tute gratification for sexuality : 

The sexual effect of a uniform, the erotically provoc- 
ative effect of rhythmically executed goose-stepping, 
the exhibitionistic nature of militaristic procedures, 
have been more practically comprehended by a 
salesgirl or an average secretary than by our most 
erudite politicians. 

The forces of political reaction recognized this appeal, 
designing flashy uniforms and displaying recruiting posters 
which emphasized “foreign adventure” with the under- 
lying implication of sexual freedom. 1 7 

Working-class support of fascism, Reich believed, owed 
its origin to working-class identification with the character 
structure of the middle class. During the tremendous 
period of physical and economic exploitation of the 
nineteenth century, the proletariat maintained a character 


structure rooted in the working class. In that period 
workers tended to identify with their own class; they were 
conscious of themselves as workers. But by the twentieth 
century, workers had alleviated their material condition— 
they had won shorter working hours, social security, and 
improved income. But rather than solidifying the workers’ 
movement, this led to worker identification with the 
middle class. It was the purchase of the 

lower middle class bedroom suite, the learning of 
proper dance steps, the purchase of a “decent” suit of 
clothes and the attempt to appear respectable by 
suppressing sexuality that turned the revolutionary 
and communist into the reactionary. 

All of these banalities of life, Reich argued, had a “greater 
reactionary influence when repeated day after day than 
thousands of revolutionary rallies and leaflets can ever 
hope to counterbalance.” When the Depression destroyed 
the middle-class world, the working class, which had 
depended upon the middle class, turned to fascism. As 
Reich stated, “In times of prosperity this adaptation to 
middle-class habits was intensified, but the subsequent 
effect of this adaptation, in time of economic crisis, was to 
obstruct the full unfolding of revolutionary senti- 
ments.” 1 8 

Reich’s analysis of working-class support of fascism 
corresponds very closely to Freire’s warning of how the 
oppressed identify with the oppressor; of how the 
internalization of an alien consciousness comes to dom- 
inate the people in the subordinate classes. For Reich 
working-class identification with the middle class resulted 
in a culture that was more stalwartly middle class than the 
middle class itself. In a search for “respectability” the 
working-class family became highly oppressive and authori- 
tarian. In a sense this happens to every apparently 
upwardly mobile group. For example, one could argue that 


the blue-collar worker in the United States has followed 
this path in an attempt to display middle-class respecta- 
bility. It is certainly possible that black people in the 
United States, in an attempt to gain access to the 
dominant culture will adopt the oppressive qualities of 
white middle-class respectability, impose harsh moral 
codes on their children, and attempt to do everything 

Reich believed that the Nazi Party was well aware that 
its support was grounded in the family and sexual 
repression. Mass individuals came to depend upon the 
Fiihrer in the same manner as they had depended upon 
their fathers. The German fascist gave strong support to 
the idea of the family as the backbone of the nation and 
attempted to assure that the sexual act was associated only 
with reproduction in the national interest and not with 
pleasurable gratification. Reich quoted Adolf Hitler’s 1932 
presidential election statement that a woman’s ultimate 
aim should be the creation of a family: “It is the smallest 
but most valuable unit in the complete structure of the 
state,” Hitler stated. “Work honors both man and woman. 
But the child exalts the woman.” 1 9 

In 1928 Wilhelm Reich founded the Socialist Society 
for Sexual Advice and Study in Vienna as an attempt to 
begin a major sexual revolution. Writing about this venture 
later in his life, he reflected upon the revolutionary 
implications of sexual freedom. Important social and 
economic changes would have to be made to solve the 
problems of adequate housing for adolescent sexual 
activity and for economic independence from the family. 
The sexual revolution also implies 

criticism of all political tendencies which based their 
existence and activity on man’s essential helplessness; 
basic inner self-sufficiency of the human being; . . . 
self-guidance in children’s education and in this way 
the gradual attainment of self-sufficiency for grown- 
ups. 2 0 


In 1930 Reich left Vienna and went to Germany 
because of what he felt were negative pressures placed on 
his social hygiene work. In Germany the Communist Party 
agreed to organize an association on the basis of Reich’s 
ideas. This organization, the German Association for 
Proletarian Sexual Politics, issued a platform which con- 
tained the basic elements of Reich’s plan. The program 
called for better housing conditions, the abolition of laws 
against homosexuality and abortion, the changing of 
divorce and marriage laws, the issuance of free contra- 
ceptives and birth-control advice, health protection of 
mothers and children, abolition of laws prohibiting sex 
education, and home leave for prisoners. Reich traveled 
throughout Germany giving lectures and establishing sex 
hygiene centers. Under pressure from the Nazis, Reich was 
forced to flee Germany for Copenhagen in 1933. 

The year he left Vienna for Germany, Reich published 
his first major statement on sexual education, The Sexual 
Revolution. This book was written in reaction to what 
Reich labeled conservative sexual education and to what 
he perceived as the failure of the Russian revolution. 
Conservative sexual education, Reich believed, was 
attempting to remove the mystery from sexual relation- 
ships, and at the same time maintain traditional moral 
ideas. Venereal disease was stressed in most sex education 
courses in order to inhibit free sexual activity. Children 
were told about the beauty of the human body and the 
sexual act, but were advised to reserve sexual activity for 
the confines of marriage. For Reich there could be no such 
compromise between sexual education and established 
morality. It had to be a vehicle for sexual freedom and 
self -regulation. 

Reich traced the development of sex and marriage laws 
in the Soviet Union from the radical policies of the early 
revolutionary period to the authoritarian policies of the 
late 1920 s and 1930’s, which he termed “Red Fascism.” 



This regression involved the attempt to re-establish the 
family as the center of education and authority. “In our 
fight for self-government of the children and for the 
elimination of the authoritarian form of the schools, we 
can no longer point to the S.U. [Soviet Union].” He 
argued that the rise of a totalitarian state, the end of 
sexual liberation, the re-establishment of the family as the 
center of the state, and the end of experimental and free 
education were all part of the same phenomenon. 2 1 

Reich noted that as early as December 1917, Lenin had 
decreed that the husband was to lose his power of 
domination over the family and that women were to be 
given economic and sexual freedom and the right to 
determine their own names, residences, and citizenship. 
Marriage was made a purely secular occasion— the power of 
the church was removed. The family structure was further 
weakened by the institution of liberal divorce laws so that 
marriages could be dissolved by mutual consent. The 
education of children was to become a collective enter- 

One of the schools that impressed Reich most during a 
visit to the Soviet Union in the late 1920’s was Vera 
Schmidt’s psychoanalytical home for children in Moscow. 
The school, founded in 1921, was what Reich referred to 
as “the first attempt in the history of education to give the 
theory of infantile sexuality a practical content.” This 
school emphasized the development of self-regulation 
within the context of a community of children. Social 
adjustment would not be a product of moralistic judg- 
ment— which could not be understood by the child and 
only served the interests of the adult— but of the real social 
life of the children. Teachers at Vera Schmidt’s school 
withheld all praise, blame, and judgments about the 
children’s behavior. No violent displays of affection, such 
as embracing and kissing the child, were allowed, for they 
were only a means for adults to live out their own 


unsatisfied sexuality. Without disciplinary measures and 
moralistic judgment there would be no need for “patching 
up with kisses the harm one has done with beatings .” 2 2 

Reich heartily approved of letting children work out 
their own social adjustment within a community of their 
peers. This removed them from the power of the family, 
which taught the child to follow authoritarian father and 
mother figures. Within the community of children the 
individual learned instead to act on the basis of self -need 
and self-regulation. Reich found support for these ideas in 
his study of anthropology. Among the Trobriand Islanders, 
who were one of Reich’s fondest examples of a non- 
repressive sexual culture, children were given a great deal 
of freedom and independence from parental authority. 
Although parents would scold or coax their children, they 
would never issue a command to them nor speak to them 
other than as equals. One of the important results of this 
freedom was the ability of the children to form their own 
independent community. Children of Trobriand Islanders 
either remained with their parents during the day or joined 
their friends in a miniature republic. This community 
within the community functioned according to its own 
needs and desires. It provided both a vehicle for sociali- 
zation which was free from authority, and a means of 
collective opposition to the parents . 2 3 

The most important element of self-regulation among 
the Trobriand Islanders and the children at Vera Schmidt’s 
school was sexual self -regulation. At the psychoanalytical 
home no moral judgments were made with regard to sexual 
activities and children were taught to treat them like any 
other bodily function. Children were absolutely free to 
satisfy their sexual curiosity among themselves, mutually 
inspecting each other and viewing each other’s naked 
bodies. This self-regulation of the sexual drives avoided the 
sexual anxiety and general pleasure anxiety which, led to 
the development of an armored and authoritarian indi- 
vidual who could neither give nor receive pleasure . 2 4 


Freedom and community of the type found in the 
psychoanalytical home was essential for any meaningful, 
positive social change. Reich wrote, “The history of the 
formation of ideologies shows that every social system, 
consciously or unconsciously, makes use of the influencing 
of children in order to anchor itself in the human 
structure .” 2 5 The method of sexual education, for in- 
stance, was directly related to the functioning of the 
economic enterprise. Self -regulated sexuality led to volun- 
tary, free-flowing productive work; instinctual suppression 
led to work done as duty. It was in the context of this 
discussion of sexual and social self-regulation that Reich 
raised the traditional radical dilemma of whether the child 
should be indoctrinated into revolutionary beliefs. 

The question was formulated in terms of how a 
self-governing and non-authoritarian society reproduced 
itself in its children. There were two possible methods of 
dealing with the problem. One was to indoctrinate with 
“revolutionary instead of patriarchal ideals.” The other 
method was to give up the idea of revolutionary indoctri- 
nation and concentrate upon forming “the structure of the 
child in such a manner that it reacts of itself collectively 
and accepts the general revolutionary atmosphere without 
rebellion .” 2 6 Reich, of course, argued for the latter 
because the real meaning of an ideology is determined by 
the character structure of the individual. A radical social 
philosophy could end in totalitarianism if preached and 
practiced by authoritarian personalities. The most im- 
portant step for a self-governing society was to assure that 
it was free of authoritarian character traits. 

In the last chapter of The Sexual Revolution Reich 
outlined the steps that should be taken to provide social 
and legal protection for infantile and adolescent sexuality. 
He called for the establishment of model institutions of 
collective education which would be the nuclei of the new 
social order. These institutions would function in a manner 
similar to Vera Schmidt’s school, with scientific research 



i e 




f 1 



being conducted to modify and improve techniques. Reich 
called for the distribution of birth-control devices on a 
mass scale. He also argued that, “A repetition of the 
catastrophic failure of the Soviet sexual revolution is 
unavoidable unless the room problem for adolescents and 
unmarried people is solved.” This, Reich argued, could be 
accomplished by the government establishing emergency 
homes for youth. The population would have to be 
convinced that the government was uncompromisingly 
committed to ensuring the sexual happiness of all people. 
In addition to these changes Reich called for an extensive 
network of sexological institutions which would bring 
sexual instruction and enlightened discussions to the 
masses of the people. Children and adolescents should be 
protected against the implanting of sexual anxiety and 
sexual guilt feelings. 

The ideal society of self-regulated character structures 
was called a work-democracy by Reich. In this society 
people would rid themselves of dependency upon political 
structures; rather, the formation of social organizations 
would flow directly out of necessary work activity. For 
Reich politics and political parties were irrational mecha- 
nisms for the enhancement of personal power and the 
promotion of dependency. The social irrationalism of 
politics was evidenced by the fact that society gave 
politicians great power to exercise judgments in areas 
where they were without competency. The power of the 
politician was analogous to that of the mystic. “A 
politician,” he wrote, “is in a position to deceive millions 
of people, e.g., he can promise to establish freedom 
without actually having to do so. No one demands proof 
of his competence or of the feasibility of his promises.” 
Politics in this sense functioned like religion and in fact 
represented a substitute for it. A mystic, like a politician, 
“can imbue masses of people with the belief that there is a 
life after death— and he need not offer the least trace of 
proof.” 2 7 

In a self-regulated work-democracy the irrationalism of 
politics would be replaced with organizations growing out 
of the work situation. No government or political structure 
would be required to organize a system of railroads or 
conduct a postal system; these organizations would grow 
directly out of the social needs of transportation and mail 
delivery. People with self -regulated character structures 
would not submit to the authority of irrational politics 
and would demand social organizations which both served 
a need and provided a rational means of getting a 
particular task accomplished. 

This dream, of course, was similar to the dream of 
traditional anarchism— the end of politics and the return of 
power to the people. Reich’s important contribution to 
this debate was to highlight the importance of the 
relationship between personality and social structure. This 
brings us another step beyond Stimer’s call for ownership 
of self and Freire’s concern for an experiential awareness 
of social reality. In essence he was saying that an 
atmosphere of freedom helped to create a personality 
which demanded still more freedom. In the same manner, 
the ability to give love and pleasure depended upon the 
ability to experience love and pleasure. Repression of any 
sort decreased not only people’s own pleasure but their 
ability to give love and make others happy. For Reich 
there could not be any compromise on this issue. If one 
wanted a society of self-regulated and non-sadistic in- 
dividuals, one had to raise children in an atmosphere free 
from moral repression, authoritarian control, and pleasure 

IN THE LATE 1940’s Reich wrote The Murder of Christ. 
Reich’s description of Christ was his most poetic statement 
of the traits of a self-regulated, free, loving and sponta- 
neous character. It was the “armored man (sic)” who killed 







Christ and transformed his message into a religion of 
mysticism and repression. Christ spoke very plainly; his 
message gained mystery only because those armored 
individuals could not understand him. Christ must have 
recognized this fact when he quoted Isaiah : 

You shall indeed hear but never understand and you 
shall indeed see but never perceive. For this peoples’ 
heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of 
hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they 
should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their 
ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me 
to heal them. 

(Matthew 13:14, 15) 

Reich wrote, “This is the ARMOR: No, they do not hear 
nor see nor feel with their hearts what they see and hear 
and perceive.” 

Christ was the symbol of the ability to love and give 
pleasure without robbing the world of joy. He was able to 
move with the currents of life and make his own life a pure 
statement of love. “The expression of Christ,” Reich 
wrote, “has the quality of a meadow on an early sunlit 
spring morning. You can’t see it, but you feel it all through 
you if you are not plague ridden.” It was the armored 
individual, the “Red Fascist” and the person of “petit- 
bourgeois sentimentality,” who could not feel that radi- 
ance. The world of work-democracy and genital freedom 
was to be populated with people who acted in the manner 
of Christ. Christ 

can laugh and scream with joy. He knows no restraint 
in his expression of love; in giving himself to fellow 
men, he does not lose a grain of natural dignity. When 
he walks on the ground, his feet set fully into the soil 
as if to take root with each step, separating again to 
take root again. 2 8 

A.S. NEILL HAD FORMULATED and practiced his ideas 
on education many years before his encounter with Reich 
in 1937. Over the years of friendship following their first 
meeting, Reich provided a psychological argument which 
pulled together many of Neill’s ideas and influenced the 
self-regulative character of the education offered at Sum- 
merhill, Neill’s school. Summerhill became the symbol for 
free school movements throughout the twentieth century— 
certainly it had a strong impact on the development of the 
free school movement in the United States in the 1960’s. 
"Free school” eventually came to mean a school aimed at 
developing the self-regulative character structure in people. 

Before meeting Reich, Neill claimed to have been 
influenced by a wide variety of people, including Adler, 
Freud, and Homer Lane. He admitted that he did not 
study psychology in any concentrated manner but just 
brought together those psychological arguments which 
made sense to him. His early philosophy was a blend of 
practical experience and popularized Freudian psychology. 
In the 1920’s his dream was to spread the free school idea 
throughout the world; he even wrote Henry Ford to 
suggest that his factory might produce school caravans. In 
the 1930’s Neill began to gain a critical understanding of 
the economics of capitalist society. It was this combina- 
tion of Freud and radical political and economic analysis 
which made Summerhill an important institution of radical 
education in the twentieth century. 

In establishing and operating Summerhill, Neill wanted 
to provide a means by which the world could be saved 
from crime, despair, and unhappiness. His early work must 
be understood in the context of the sense of failure and 
disillusionment that swept Europe after World War I. “Our 
education, politics and economics led to the Great War”; 
he wrote in the 1920’s; “our medicine has not done away 



with disease; our religion has not abolished usury and 
robbery. . . The source of the world’s problems, and the 
major problem with the education of children, was the 
repression of natural drives. Neill plainly stated in The 
Problem Child, “I believe that it is moral instruction that 
makes the child bad. I find that when I smash the moral 
instruction a bad boy has received he automatically 
becomes a good boy.” 2 9 

People, according to Neill, often found themselves in a 
state of conflict between the “life force” which is part of 
their nature, and the self which is created by moral 
instruction. Every action must be seen in terms of the 
tension between these two components. Moral instruction, 
then, tended to produce its opposite. A mother who 
suppressed a child’s selfishness, for example, was ensuring 
that the child would be selfish. A person who stole was 
acting in a way which could be linked to repressive moral 
teaching in childhood. In Neill’s identification of the 
existence of moral authority and conscience as the source 
of civilization’s problems, he was following the tradition of 
anarchists like Max Stimer. In an imaginary dialogue with 
a “Mrs. Morality,” he told this symbolic figure of 
authority that, “I believe there would be more honesty in 
the world if policemen were abolished. ... It is the law 
that makes the crime.” 3 0 

While at Reich’s Institute in Maine during the late 
1940’s, Neill began to rewrite and condense his earlier 
works, claiming that, “I sat down to read them, and 
realized with something akin to horror, that they were 
out-of-date.” 31 The weaving of these early ideas into 
Reichian thought did not prove difficult. The concept that 
morality produces hostility, aggression, and unhappiness 
received added support from Reich’s concepts of character 
armor and pleasure anxiety. The one point, of course, 
upon which they immediately agreed was that a world free 
of hostility and aggression depended on total freedom for 
the child. Neill claimed Reich often chided him for not 


going far enough and encouraging adolescent sexual 
relations at Summerhill. “I told him,” Neill wrote, “that to 
allow a full sex life to adolescents would mean the end of 
my school if and when the government heard about it.” 32 

The one idea that Neill did not alter was the distinction 
between freedom and license in a free school. Freedom 
meant freedom from moral teachings, not the right to 
commit any action. In response to the question of what he 
would do if a boy were pounding nails into a grand piano, 
he said, “It doesn’t matter if you take the child away from 
the piano so long as you don’t give the child a conscience 
about hammering nails.” In other words, he argued that 
one can stop a person from doing something without 
making it a form of moral punishment. Another example 
Neill gave was of a child leaving a tool out in the rain. In 
this case the rain was harmful to the object but not 
morally good or bad in an abstract sense. To provide 
freedom for the child meant to provide him or her with 
the opportunity of growing up without an internalized 
moral authority or conscience. 3 3 

Neill’s concept of freedom was very close to Stimer’s 
idea of ownership of self. Neill wrote, “To give a child 
freedom is not easy. It means that we refuse to teach him 
religion or politics or class-consciousness.” Freedom was 
the right to own or choose one’s own ideals and beliefs; 
the function of a free school was to provide the necessary 
institutionalization of this concept. Summerhill reflected 
Neill’s statement of the 1920’s, “No man is good enough 
to give another his own ideals.” 34 It was to be a place 
where the individual could explore and make choices 
about those ideals. 

By the 1930’s Neill had begun to link his educational 
ideas with radical political thought. For instance, in 1935 a 
magazine presented Neill and two other headmasters in 
England with a series of questions dealing with obedience 
and authority in the educational process. They were asked 
to what extent they thought the free development of the 










individual clashed with the interests of the state, and 
whether the desire for freedom could be combined with a 
sense of responsibility. The two school officials replied in 
general liberal terms about the school promoting coopera- 
tion and a sense of responsibility toward the state. Neill 
answered with a statement that the state at that time 
represented a capitalist system which emphasized the 
instinct of possession over that of creation. Within a 
capitalist state, he argued, “. . . there is no hope of creative 
love as opposed to possessive love. Only under some form 
of Socialism have freedom and love and education a 
chance.” For Neill the answer to the question depended on 
the nature of the state. If the state were capitalistic and 
authoritarian, then the free development of the individual 
would clash with its interests. On the other hand, “The 
free development of the individual will not clash with the 
interests of the State if the latter is just and humane and 
loving.” 3 5 

In 1939 Neill wrote The Problem Teacher, a book which 
detailed the relationships he was beginning to see between 
the nature of schooling and political and economic 
systems. In it he stated bluntly that, “The State schools 
must produce a slave mentality because only a slave 
mentality can keep the system from being scrapped.” He 
suggested that there was a direct link between Hitler’s 
method of control and an educational system which 
produced humble yesmen. In general his argument fol- 
lowed the pattern of the traditional radical critique of 
schooling as a function of the interests of the state. In 
Germany and Italy national schooling meant fascism; in 
England it meant preparing each generation to fit into a 
capitalist economy. The English schools not only produced 
a slave mentality but also robbed the working class of 
effective leadership— a point which must be considered one 
of the most important criticisms of the development of the 
secondary school in both England and the United States. 
“The master stroke in . . . educational policy,” he wrote, 

was the secondary school, the school that took 
children of the working class to white-collar jobs in 
clerking, teaching, doctoring and the other profes- 
sions. Thus it robbed the workers of its best men and 
women. . . , 3 6 

Neill’s critique of schooling was now beginning to 
reflect some of the influence of his recent contacts with 
Reich. The home, he argued, was the state in miniature, 
and it was because it provided this training in obedience 
that every state gave so much emphasis to the home. But 
Neill took Reich’s argument one important step further. 
He insisted that the power of the school was based on its 
reproduction of family life. “Theoretically one would 
think that schooling is an antidote to family influence. It 
isn’t: it is family life on promotion.” Neill went on to 
draw parallels between the father as head of a family and 
the teacher as head of a family of forty or more children. 
In fact, the situation within the school might be worse 
than that in the family, because the teacher did not 
necessarily have the love most fathers felt for their 
children. Within the school the hostile side of the father 
was emphasized through the teacher. “And this is true of 
the disciplinarian,” Neill wrote, “for he has no love to give 
out, only hate.” 3 7 

This attack on the family and established schools did 
not imply abolition of those institutions, but their 
modification through the spread of Summerhill-type 
schools. Writing in 1944, he expressed hope that a socialist 
state could be established and with it, a national system of 
boarding schools. “Naturally,” he wrote, “I want to 
specify that such a school will be a free school, with 
self-government and self-determination of the individual 
child, that is, I visualize a nation of Summerhills.” The 
spread of such schools would not eliminate the family but 
provide a means for the child to escape the narrow 
confines of the nuclear family. The small family, Neill 



argued, was not good enough for the child. It was not only 
authoritarian but repressive in terms of its lack of a broad 
community of contacts. In schools like Summerhill, the 
child would not only be free of the authority of the family 
but would also be in the stimulating company of a wide 
variety of self-governing people. Neill sadly recognized that 
most people would not agree with his ideas: “Most people 
believe in discipline (for others); most think that a child 
should be treated like a fruit tree and pruned regularly.” 3 8 

It should be emphasized that Neill, throughout the 
existence of Summerhill, firmly held that freedom alone 
was the only cure for most “problem children.” But like 
Reich, Neill was concerned about how mass therapy could 
be conducted. By the 1940’s he had come to the 
conclusion that analysis was not a necessary therapeutic 
technique. The mere practice of freedom was the thera- 
peutic tool. Any person could help problem children 
provided that person understood and believed in freedom. 
Like Reich, Neill came to believe that radical therapy did 
not involve the treatment of individual patients but the 
removal of those social conditions which caused repres- 

It was from this standpoint of radical therapy that Neill 
criticized the general trend of Freudianism. The failure of 
most Freudians, he argued, was their unwillingness to link 
themselves with some social movement. “Psycho-analysis 
has linked up with nothing. It knows that the father 
complex is evil, yet it does not begin a campaign to abolish 
fear and authority in the school.” 39 Neill admitted that 
without Freud, Summerhill would not exist. But what 
Summerhill had accomplished, and where most of the 
psychoanalytic movement had failed, was in bridging the 
gap between theory and actual social organization. Sum- 
merhill was an attempt to establish an institution to rid 
society of the problems defined by Freudian theorists. In 
this sense, Summerhill represented radical social therapy. 


IN 1947 NEILL MADE his first trip to the United States, 
where he stayed with Reich at his Institute in Maine. 
During his stay Neill wrote The Problem Family. In this 
book he argued that socialism was not sufficient to ensure 
the happiness and freedom of humanity. He echoed 
Reich’s ideas when he wrote, “I want Socialism plus 
sex-economy, nationalization plus relaxed bodies, for if 
the body is relaxed the chances are that the psyche is 
pretty free.” 40 Neill rejected his previous leanings toward 
established socialist and communist movements; he also 
rejected solutions based on politics and political democ- 
racies. What he accepted was a Reichian work-democracy 
where self -regulated individuals would reject the irrational- 
ism of politics and form social organizations out of need 
and desire. The free life of Summerhill was now the 
prototype of the work-democracy. 

In The Problem Family Neill reiterated his own idea— 
and Reich’s— that the heart of civilization’s problems was 
the organization of the family. Again he linked the 
organization of the family to that of the state and the 
school. Neill now defined schools as products of direct 
class interest, used 

to discipline the workers in such a way that they are 
symbolically castrated for life, the aim being to 
continue the privileges of the rich, who will be safe 
with an under class that has been unmanned and 
therefore has not the guts to rebel. 4 1 

The problem for modem society was to choose between 
the free and unfree family. 

The free family was one in which children were freed 
from the internalized authority produced by moral dis- 
cipline. This could be done within the family. “In families 


many parents do it,” Neill wrote, “and there are quite a lot 
of children living today who will never spank a child or 
moralize about sex or give a fear of God .” 42 Freedom 
within the family would then be reflected in the school 
and in society in general. Freedom within the family, for 
example, implied the abolition of compulsive marriage. 
Marriage would be held together only by the love of the 
two partners. The free family, Summerhill and work- 
democracy were all interrelated parts. 

For both Reich and Neill education and upbringing were 
directed toward encouraging the growth of free, self- 
regulated individuals. They did not use the word “free- 
dom” in the liberal sense of freedom before the law or 
political freedom, but in the Stimerian sense of ownership 
of self. One was truly free of authority when one was free 
of guilt. Reich and Neill added a new dimension to 
libertarian education by grounding the problem of free- 
dom in the actual psychic growth of the child. 



$ «W 








WHILE WILHELM REICH and A.S. Neill considered 
liberation of the child from the moral confines of the 
nuclear family, they did not consider liberating the child 
from the very concept of childhood. In their solutions the 
process of child rearing would simply be transferred from 
the nuclear family to a community of children. This meant 
perpetuating a period of childhood and youth during 
which children would be kept in a state of dependency, 
isolated from the major social and economic forces of 
society. Neill in a sense was trapped by modem concepts 
of childhood and youth into assuming that abolition of 
control by the nuclear family required the substitution of 
another controlling institution. The solution he found in 
Summerhill left unanswered the questions of whether 
collective child-rearing practices might not be as harmful 
or more harmful than the nuclear family and whether the 
problem of the nuclear family might not be solved only by 


breaking through the confines of the modem concepts of 
childhood and youth. Perhaps any meaningful concept of 
freedom must include the actions and activities of 

One way of approaching the problem of the relationship 
of the child and the family is to consider it in terms of 
historically changing concepts of childhood and adoles- 
cence. One of the important historical arguments that has 
been given for liberating the child from the nuclear family 
and the modem concept of childhood can be found in 
Philippe Aries’ modem classic, Centuries of Childhood. 
Tracing the interrelated development of the concepts of 
childhood, family, and the school, he argues that the 
concept of childhood is a very recent one in Western 
culture. During the Middle Ages, as soon as an infant left 
swaddling clothes she or he was integrated into the adult 
world and shared the same games, social life, and styles of 
clothing. Children were not segregated, nor were they 
defined as a special category. Similarly, the family at this 
time did not exist as a small nuclear unit. Marriage was not 
given much significance and was primarily an economic 
institution for passing on the family name and wealth. Of 
much greater importance was the community, which 
provided the major focus of social activity and was the 
major agency of socialization. It was this community, 
consisting of people of all ages, into which the child was 

After the Middle Ages the concept of the child, the 
importance of the small nuclear family, and the role of the 
school all developed along parallel lines and reinforced 
each other. The school helped to mark off the special age 
periods of childhood development and taught the family 
that it must direct special attention to the well-being of 
the child. The child was withdrawn from the adult 
community and given a special status which included 
different expectations and a separate social life. The family 
began to define itself as a small, detached, nuclear unit. 



Aries concludes with, 

Our world is obsessed by the physical, moral and 
sexual problems of childhood. . . . Family and school 
together removed the child from adult society. . . . 
The solicitude of family. Church, moralists and 
administrator deprived the child of the freedom he 
had hitherto enjoyed among adults. 

Prior to the modem family, an individual’s social relation- 
ships were mainly within a broad community and this 
created a greater degree of sociability. Conversely, Aries 
links the modem trend toward individualism with the 
development of the small modern family, going so far as to 
state: “One is tempted to conclude that sociability and the 
concept of the family were incompatible, and develop only 
at each other’s expense .” 1 

What Aries’ study suggests is that if we truly want to 
change this type of family structure, we must get rid of the 
concept of childhood and the idea that there should be 
institutions which attempt to make the child into some 
particular moral or social ideal. This would mean the 
elimination of the school. In its place we would see the 
development of the child as an independent being and his 
or her integration within the social structure. 

Recent studies of the development of the concept of 
adolescence and youth culture have tended to support 
these interrelationships found between the family, school, 
and specifically defined age categories. These studies also 
take up an aspect of the problem that Aries did not fully 
consider— one that has important implications for any 
future planning— the effect of industrial organization on 
changing concepts of childhood and youth. Concepts of 
childhood and youth, these studies show, can be directly 
related to the changing value of these age groups in the 
industrial process. In the nineteenth century children of 
the lower classes were an important element in the labor 


supply for factories in developing industrial countries like the 
United States and England. Children of the lower class were 
without childhood in the sense that at an early age they 
entered the industrial workplace. Middle-class children, on 
the other hand, were needed for a developing white-collar 
class. This required special training in schools, which 
meant they were withheld from the labor market and kept 
in a state of dependency upon the family. 2 

In the United States in the late nineteenth century a 
combination of factors resulted in the displacement of 
more and more children and adolescents from the labor 
market. There was a feeling by industrialists that techno- 
logical changes no longer required the use of children in 
factories, a concern by labor unions that cheap child labor 
depressed the wage scale, and an increase in the need for 
white-collar workers. Beginning in the 1920’s, increases in 
man-hour productivity were reflected in the displacement 
of more youth from the labor force and an increase in high 
school enrollments. Young people were simply not needed 
in an economic system increasingly dependent on 

One effect of these changes was the development of a 
concept of adolescence with its own psychology and 
cultural style. This was reflected in the development of 
something called the “youth problem.” In the 1920’s “the 
youth problem” was seen as part of the Jazz Age; in the 
1930’s it was called the Lost Generation; after World War 
II it took the form of the Beat movement; and in the 
1960’s it was related to the Hippies and Yippies. 3 

Another important consequence of these changes was 
the extension of the child’s dependency on the family. 
While most people think of the school as threatening the 
nuclear family, in fact the opposite might be true. As 
children and youth were removed from the labor market 
and placed in school they became dependent on the family 
for a longer and longer period. By the middle of the 
century, in many families in the United States this 


dependency extended until college years. The structure of 
schooling required the maintenance of families as places 
from which children were sent to school. Rather than the 
school weakening the family structure by taking over some 
of its functions, the family was probably strengthened by 
the increased dependence of children and youth. 

GIVEN THIS CONSIDERATION of the historical develop- 
ment of the concept of childhood and dependency on the 
nuclear family, the collective child-rearing practices of 
Summerhill appear in a somewhat different light. First, 
collective child-rearing practices certainly would weaken 
the family in that the major responsibility for child rearing 
would be transferred to a community like Summerhill. But 
this might not have any effect on family organization if 
the father and mother of the child were required to pay 
for their child’s care until adolescence or later. The 
situation would be similar to any other middle-class family 
sending its children to boarding school. The family would 
still be required as a legal and economic institution until 
the child reached some socially defined stage of adulthood. 
The school would therefore only be truly effective in 
weakening the nuclear family if the mother and father 
were freed from legal and economic responsibility for the 
child while it was very young. 

Second, collective child-rearing practices would have an 
important effect on the social role of women. Freed from 
extended periods of responsibility for child rearing, 
women would be able to enter the labor market on more 
equal terms with men. The liberation of women was an 
important concern to Reich and Neill, and is one of the 
major forces shaping the present development of collective 
child-rearing practices like day-care centers. But again, this 
only had meaning if the mother is freed from economic 
and legal responsibility for the child. 


Third, collective child-rearing practices do free the child 
from the family but not from the state of dependency 
inherent in the very concept of childhood: in this case, 
dependency upon a community, school, or the state. This 
situation carries with it a certain amount of irony. 
According to Aries, the development of the concept of 
childhood was a major force in the development of the 
modem family. Collective child rearing attacks the family 
without calling into question one of the important 
elements which caused its existence. 

From this perspective collective child rearing might be 
of more benefit to the parents than to the child. One of 
Reich’s and Neill’s hopes, of course, was that if children 
were liberated from the moral structures of the family, 
they would develop non-authoritarian character structures. 
The important question is whether this would occur. If 
collective child rearing were placed under government 
control and directed toward the traditional aims of public 
schooling, it seems unlikely that it would. These doubts 
are confirmed by recent studies of the collective child- 
rearing methods of the Israeli Kibbutz. The Kibbutz 
represents an attempt to solve the problems of women’s 
equality and the family through collective methods. It is a 
good illustration of the inner dynamics of the problem and 
it suggests that solutions based on collective child rearing 
might result in the creation of a non-rebellious and totally 
group-conformist type of personality. 

The Kibbutz movement represents one of the most 
important twentieth-century experiments in developing a 
society that would provide equality for all its members. It 
has established agricultural communities with collective 
ownership of the tools of production and democratic 
control. Within the Kibbutz movement there has been an 
attempt to maintain economic and occupational equality. 
Collective child-rearing methods have been developed and 
the nuclear family has been de -emphasized, partly in order 
to establish equality for women and free them from the 
burden of child rearing. 


The evolution of and interconnection between female 
equality, changing family patterns, and collective child- 
rearing practices in the Kibbutz received its earliest 
consideration in the United States in the work of 
anthropologist Melford E. Spiro in the early 1950’s. In 
1951 he lived on a Kibbutz which traced its origins to the 
early 1920’s. It had been founded primarily by Jewish 
youth of Polish origin who, coming out of the youth 
movements in Europe, combined a pastoral romanticism 
with radical rejection of traditional Jewish customs. They 
emphasized a rejection of city life for the hard work of an 
agricultural community. They also sought to replace the 
traditional Jewish family with a form of cooperative 
living. 4 

When the Kibbutz was founded, one of the main 
concerns was the equality of women. The importance and 
compulsiveness of marriage were reduced and the sexual 
relationship was viewed as a personal affair, with neither 
the original union nor its termination requiring the 
sanction of the community. The marriage relationship was 
announced essentially by a couple asking for a joint room, 
and divorce by the couple asking for separate rooms. By 
the 1950’s the Kibbutz had become part of the State of 
Israel and the law required that a child had to be born of 
married parents in order to receive civil rights; therefore, 
official marriage on this Kibbutz occurred with pregnancy. 

Reducing the importance of marriage, it was believed, 
would reduce the social and economic dependency of the 
woman on the man. The abolition of the marriage 
ceremony was meant to remove women’s legal subjection 
to men. The female did not assume the male’s name nor 
was her legal status that of “his wife.” Within this Kibbutz 
a female’s prestige was not enhanced by the fact that her 
husband was a great worker or brilliant leader. Because of 
the collective ownership of property the female was not 
economically dependent on the male. The traditional 
sexual division of labor was destroyed. Men and women 
were to have similar occupational roles. Spiro found, 



however, that the ideal of women’s equality had been 
compromised by what was referred to as women’s “biolog- 
ical tragedy.” 

Over the long years of development work had become 
divided on the basis of sex. This was due partly to the 
strenuous nature of some of the labor, but even more 
significantly to the fact that pregnant women could not 
work for long periods in the fields and nursing mothers 
had to work near the Infant House. This meant that when 
women were forced to leave vital agricultural pursuits, 
their positions were assumed by men. Consequently, on 
the Kibbutz where Spiro lived, 88 percent of the women 
were involved in service jobs, the largest numbers working 
in education and the laundry. 5 

Hand in hand with this reduction in the importance of 
marriage went a de-emphasis on the role of the family. 
Certain traditional types of family functions were collec- 
tivized. One important step was the establishment of a 
common dining room. People were not to separate into 
nuclear families at mealtime — an occasion which had 
traditionally performed a unifying function for the family. 
In fact, the traditional family meal represented all the 
values the members of the Kibbutz wanted to reject: the 
father sat as patriarchal leader of the family while the 
female displayed her subservient role by serving the food. 
In the collective dining room males and females shared the 
cooking and cleaning. The meal itself became a community 
affair rather than a family affair. In fact, the children ate 
in their own separate dining facilities. 

The emphasis on the family was also reduced with the 
collective education of children. On this particular Kib- 
butz, collective education began four days after birth, 
when the baby and mother were released from the 
hospital. At this age the child entered the “Children’s 
Society” in which it remained until graduation from high 
school and election into the Kibbutz. As the child grew up, 
it lived in a series of “houses.” The Infant House handled a 

maximum of sixteen infants ranging in age from four days 
to approximately one year and was supervised by a nurse 
and three assistants drawn from the labor supply of the 
community. The infants were not allowed to be taken to 
their parents’ rooms until they were six months old, so 
that most personal needs were attended to by the nurses. 
Infants were with their parents only during feeding time or 
during parental visits to the Infant House on weekday 
afternoons and Saturdays. 

At the age of six months the children were allowed one 
hour a day away from the Infant House to visit their 
parents’ rooms; at one year this was increased to two hours 
a day and the children were taken from the Infant House 
to the Toddlers House. There they were placed under the 
supervision of a new nurse, gradually toilet trained, and 
taught to feed themselves. They learned to play with 
children of the same age group. The size of the social 
group in the Toddlers House was about eight children. At 
the age of four or five years the children left this group 
and entered Kindergarten. The size of the community of 
children at this time was increased to sixteen. This 
established the social group the child would be with until 
the end of high school. 

The children were therefore not raised in a family but in 
a community of peers. They lived in a dormitory, visited 
their parents for two hours a day, and shared all the rest of 
the day with their peers. There was little differentiation by 
sex in this process. Boys and girls shared the same showers, 
toilets, and rooms. They were accustomed to sharing 
activities and viewing each other’s bodies. Sexual matters 
were discussed quite openly and were not hidden from the 
children. However, sexual activity itself was discouraged 
until the individual entered the Kibbutz. 6 

The importance of the Kibbutz education was that it 
consciously attempted to maintain female equality by 
eliminating the importance of the nuclear family in child 
rearing. It was hoped that female equality would be 




insured by a collective education which practiced sexual 
equality and which abolished the social role of mother. 

The question that must be raised about this process has 
to do with the psychological effects of being raised in a 
community of peers. What does such a form of child 
rearing mean in terms of power and authority relationships 
within a society? The psychological effects of child rearing 
on the Kibbutz have been studied by a variety of experts . 7 
Probably the most important writing on the relationship 
between child-rearing practices and social structure has 
been Bruno Bettelheim’s The Children of the Dream. 

One of the important consequences of collective child 
rearing, Bettelheim has argued, is the development of a 
collective superego or collective conscience — what Max 
Stimer had referred to as the “spook” of internalized 
authority. Bettelheim recognizes that this development 
within the Kibbutz had important implications for other 
Western cultures. Within the Kibbutz, the source of the 
superego is no longer the parents but the children’s 
society. This is precisely the trend in other Western 
societies like the United States, where the role of the 
parent is decreasing and the importance of the peer group 
increasing. “If this trend continues,” he writes, “the 
superego in our society, too, may come to be based more 
and more on a morality that derives from the need to 
cooperate with the peer group, as is already true in the 
kibbutz .” 8 

For Bettelheim the superego which is the product of a 
peer group is less awesome, more familiar, and more 
inescapable. In the middle-class family the source of 
authority is the parents, with support from other authority 
figures like the police or God. In the Kibbutz the superego 
is a product of collective demands and is less often 
presented as a threat. On the Kibbutz the individual, as 
part of the peer group, participates directly in the forming 
of her or his own superego. Since the individual ego helps 
to form the superego, there is less of a tendency toward 

the separation of the two and the development of conflict. 
There is also less guilt and anxiety, because to meet the 
demands of the superego is to meet the demands of the 
community. In other societies morality, particularly sexual 
morality, makes demands that have no relationship to the 
real life of the community, creating conflict for the 
individual. With the collective superego, however, there is 
less conflict because the demands of the collective super- 
ego reflect the demands of the environment. 

Bettelheim’s argument suggests that the abolition of the 
nuclear family might have some very positive results in 
terms of the reduction of individual emotional conflict. On 
the other hand, it might result in even more powerful 
forms of control. Middle-class children can remove them- 
selves from their parents, hold them at a distance. But 
Kibbutz children never escape the watchful eyes of their 
peers; moreover, the individual on the Kibbutz is made a 
part of the controlling system. “We can never hide from a 
control system for which we are quite consciously a part,” 
writes Bettelheim. For the Kibbutz child “the commands 
are more inescapable because there is nowhere a dissenting 
voice to support one’s own doubts or dissent .” 9 

Being raised in a community of children also makes it 
difficult to separate one’s own ego from that of the group. 
In the Kibbutz little time or emphasis can be given to 
private feelings and emotions; children can rarely be alone 
and outside the control of the group. According to 
Bettelheim, “Group sanctions are all the more effective 
because with no way to escape the group, there is no way 
to escape its rejection .” 1 0 If one does try to run counter 
to the demands of the group, there are no supporting 
values for this revolt, no place to escape the values of the 
group. Growing up in a community of children provides 
very few opportunities to experience oneself as being 
separate from the group. 

Children of the Kibbutz also exhibit an emotional 
flatness and an inability to express deep emotional feelings 



that Bettelheim links to the process of collective child 
rearing. In the first place, group education allows very 
little time or opportunity for the experiencing of private 
emotion or an emotion shared intimately by only one or 
two friends. Again, one finds no support for the private 
experience. Bettelheim suggests that in the Kibbutz, 

Emotion shared with only one other person is a sign 
of selfishness no less than other private possessions. 
Nowhere more than in the kibbutz did I realize the 
degree to which private property, in the deep layers 
of the mind, relates to private emotions . 1 1 

Second, group life often requires the repression of strong 
emotional feelings. This is particularly true during adoles- 
cence, when sexual relations on the Kibbutz are not 
sanctioned but at the same time adolescent girls and boys 
are sharing rooms, toilets, and showers. This condition 
promotes a high degree of sexual stimulation yet at the 
same time requires the repression of that drive. Third, 
Bettelheim suggests that the range and possibilities of 
emotional experience are limited in collective child rearing. 
The child feels a great deal more secure in the group than 
in a nuclear family. On the Kibbutz the group is the god 
on which the person depends. In the family it is the 
mother and the father. The Kibbutz child never feels the 
anxiety of possibly losing her or his source of security. 
Bettelheim argues that a middle-class child’s dependency 
on the parents and fear of losing them results in a process 
of introjection whereby the child internalizes the parents 
as a means of possessing them. For Bettelheim, the process 
of introjection trains the child in the ability to assume the 
role of others and speculate about different ways of living. 
When asking Kibbutz youths questions like, “How do you 
think you would have felt about kibbutz life if you’d been 
bom and raised in the city?” he would receive answers 
like, “I wasn’t raised there, so I can’t answer that.” “To 


move outside the self and take a look at it,” Bettelheim 
observes, “was not a stance common to these 
youngsters .” 1 2 

Bettelheim’s description of the effects of collective child 
rearing raises some very interesting questions. For instance, 
while the nuclear, triangular family can be viewed as a 
source of dependency on authoritarian figures, it can also 
be seen as providing an opportunity for the child to 
separate herself or himself from the rest of society and 
develop a private self. This separation of self through the 
mechanism of the family can be viewed in both a positive 
and negative light. Negatively it can be argued that the 
individualism spawned by the family leads to a selfish 
individualism which works against social cooperation. This 
is one of the arguments given in favor of the collective 
education of the Kibbutz in that it fosters social coopera- 
tion. On the positive side it can be argued that the family 
situation allows for the type of social separation and 
conditions basic to developing the mechanism of revolt. 
Revolt against the family is the first step in throwing off 
the control of society. 

One can argue from this perspective that the major 
problem with collective child rearing and the development 
of a collective superego is that this superego is all- 
controlling and does not provide mechanisms for indi- 
vidual rejection or revolt. This may make little difference 
in the Kibbutz, where there is collective ownership and 
control. But in advanced industrial countries the spread of 
collective child-rearing practices would not necessarily 
imply a total reform of the social system. If previous 
experience is any guide, schools have always tended to 
reflect the inequalities of society. 

The questions raised about the Kibbutz can be directed 
toward Summerhill as well. Certainly Neill envisioned a 
series of Summerhills as part of a socialist society. This 
would supposedly make collective child rearing a part of a 
just society. But it should be recognized that the dynamics 


of Western society which are currently providing impetus 
for collective child rearing are directed not toward the 
liberation of the child but toward the liberation of women 
from the trap of the home. Within this context, collective 
child rearing simply institutionalizes the existing patterns 
of society as far as children are concerned. It is a dreary 
prospect to think of public schools operating child-care 
centers. That would be the final triumph of the process of 

This also raises the question of whether present trends 
in collective child retiring would only provide for women’s 
escape from the burden of the home and not for female 
liberation. Feminists like Emma Goldman argued that 
there could be no women’s liberation as long as society 
retained its present form of organization. Writing in the 
early twentieth century, she argued that it was certainly 
not any glorious independence for women to be forced to 
type in offices, to sew in sweat shops, or to stand behind 
counters in department stores. For Goldman work of this 
nature was ample reason for women to rush into marriage 
at the first offer to escape their supposed “independence.” 
To liberate women would mean to liberate society from its 
existing social and economic structure. 1 3 

ONE SOLUTION TO THIS DILEMMA might be to reverse 
the problem and think of it in terms of freeing the child 
from the family, releasing the child from a state of 
dependence upon controlling institutions. The problem 
with the collective education of the Kibbutz is that it 
serves a particular end and does not allow for the 
self-development of the individual separate from the 
group. If the Kibbutz schools were eliminated and the 
children at an early age were integrated into the adult life 


of the community, that might provide a partial solution. 
The fact that formal schools exist on the Kibbutz appears 
as a cultural remnant of middle-class society. The founders 
of the Kibbutz assumed that schools were a natural part of 
all societies. But in the drive for women’s rights, it should 
not be assumed that the best solutions lie in the expansion 
of schooling. 

This argument leads back to the possible solution of 
simultaneously liberating children from the modem cate- 
gory of childhood and emancipating women from the 
burden of extended periods of child rearing. This solution 
suggests two possible directions we might take. The first 
possibility is to organize society so that all people, 
including children, have a useful social role. In the 
twentieth century the rise of schooling and the increase in 
early retirement are directly connected to higher produc- 
tivity and advanced technology. Essentially our economy 
has told young people and older people that they are no 
longer useful. Youths are put into schools and older people 
are sent to retirement communities. To change this would 
mean viewing the child as a miniature adult, with all the 
rights and status of adulthood. As Aries found to be the 
case during the Middle Ages, the child would participate in 
adult activities and would be treated as an adult. 

The second possible direction would be to accept the 
separation of production and consumption that exists in 
our society for certain age groups— that is, to accept the 
fact that children and youth function as consumers but 
not as producers. Right now, of course, this situation only 
breeds greater dependence; in the proposed solution, 
however, children and youth up to a certain age, such as 
twenty-one, would be given a guaranteed income which 
would allow them to leave home at an early age without 
necessarily having to attend a custodial institution. The 
young people would be allowed to spend that income in 
any manner they chose. This would destroy children’s 


dependency on the family and school, and would end the 
obligation of the woman to assume the responsibility for a 
lengthy period of child rearing. The proposal would have 
an advantage over the previous one in that it might avoid 
the exploitation of children and youth by the industrial 
process. It would have the disadvantage of possibly 
keeping children financially dependent on the state. 

While the above proposals are only speculative, they do 
suggest possible goals. If the abolition of the nuclear 
family is an essential step in the drive toward women’s 
emancipation, it would be better, and essential in the long 
run, for the child to be liberated in the process than to be 
subjected to an expanded system of control through 
schooling. This liberation requires that the barriers of 
modem concepts of childhood be transcended. At as early 
an age as possible the child must become a miniature adult, 
a person exercising all the rights and privileges that we now 
confer on adults. 


CERTAIN LIBERTARIAN GOALS might be achieved if 
society broke through modem concepts of childhood. 
Such concepts treat the child as an object and not as a 
subject of the social process. Viewed as an object to be 
worked upon, the child becomes a focal point for the 
imposition of ideals and ideologies. In the United States in 
the twentieth century we have witnessed repeated 
attempts to solve social problems, ranging from poverty to 
venereal disease, by attempting to shape the character of 
the child in the school. Because the child has been viewed 
as an object, childhood has become a dumping ground for 
a myriad of attempted solutions of social problems. If 
children became subjects or participants in the shaping of 
society, they would become actors in the making of 


history. As Paulo Freire suggests, the difference between 
being human and being animal-like is the exercise of 
consciousness and the participation as a subject in the 
making of history. The child treated as an object is treated 
as an animal. The child treated as a subject would be 
treated as a human being. 





THE THEORIES OF EDUCATION discussed in this book 
represent one aspect of the battle for control of the mind 
of the child that has occurred over the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries. Any consideration of their value and 
meaning must be made against the background of the 
present organization and purposes of education and an 
evaluation of the present possibilities of social change 
through the use of educational techniques. Radical 
theories of education have been based on an assumption 
common to most modern societies— that one of the key 
elements in organizing a society is the nature of the 
educational and child-rearing system. It is this system 
which shapes the future members of society. 

The real disagreements, therefore, go beyond educa- 
tional technique; they involve the very nature of social 
change. Theories of education are just one very important 
aspect of an overall theoretical perspective about how 


society should change. We can identify fundamental 
differences in theoretical perspectives about social change 
in different educational methods. Two distinct models 
emerge. One model has a technological and rationalistic 
orientation which seeks social improvement through more 
orderly social planning and increased efficiency. This is a 
model which in the twentieth century has tended to cut 
across ideological lines; it has been embraced by liberal, 
fascist, and communist countries alike. This model is 
concerned primarily with increased economic productivity 
and social stability. Society is conceived of as a machine 
with the goal of efficient operation. People become 
“human resources” whose values are determined by their 
contribution to the smooth functioning of the social 

In this model the child is treated as an object to be 
worked upon and shaped for the good of society. As I have 
demonstrated in another book, this is the model of the 
“good society” that pervaded the organization of the 
public schools in the United States in the twentieth 
century. The modem high school, vocational guidance, and 
testing were all conceived of as means of increasing the 
efficiency of the social machinery. The raw human 
resources of children would be classified, sorted, and 
shaped, then sent from the schools into their proper niches 
in society . 1 

The nature of the other model of social change may be 
deduced from the philosophies of education considered in 
this book. Here the concern is not with order and 
efficiency but with increasing individual autonomy. The 
goal of social change is increased individual participation 
and control of the social system. This model rests on the 
conviction that a great deal of the power of modem social 
institutions depends on the willingness of the people to 
accept the authority and legitimacy of these institutions. 
In this context the question becomes, not how to fit the 
individual into the social machine, but why people are 


willing to accept work without personal satisfaction and 
social authority which limits freedom. This condition of 
acceptance, as has been argued in this volume, is primarily 
the result of the ideals, beliefs, and ideologies in the mind 
of the child. As a result, the individual believes it is one’s 
duty to work for some good which might not have any 
relationship to one’s own needs and desires. The goal of 
this libertarian model is therefore an educational method 
which will encourage and support non-authoritarian indi- 
viduals who are unwilling to bow to authority and who 
demand a social organization which provides them with 
maximum individual control and freedom. 

An implicit assumption of the theories discussed in this 
volume is that changes in methods of education and child 
rearing can contribute to a radical transformation of 
society. This assumption raises questions about the value 
of these theories in our present society. Is it a waste of 
energy to direct one’s concerns toward educational 
changes as a means of social change? Should one concen- 
trate on other social and economic changes and let 
educational change follow in their wake? Will educational 
systems always be a mirror of the surrounding society? 

One way of approaching these questions is to consider 
the social uses of public education in the United States in 
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the first place, 
it is naive to assume that the educational systems precisely 
mirror the surrounding society. Society has never been 
homogeneous and without conflicting interests. There has 
never been a consensus about the goals and methods of 
public education. What has happened in fact is that the 
goals and methods of education have mirrored the goals 
and interests of those who have power in society . 2 

This situation has resulted in public education being 
used primarily as a conservative force for the solution of 
social problems. The use of public education as an 
instrument of social improvement has allowed people to 
act as if they were doing good without making any 







fundamental changes in society. In the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries education has been viewed as a means 
of ending poverty, crime, and urban disorder by teaching 
the child in the schoolhouse proper social attitudes and 
work habits. This means the individual is told he or she is 
the problem and not that the social system needs to be 
changed. Everyone can rally around the flag of the 
schoolhouse without threatening the existing organization 
of society. Certainly, this was the situation in the 1960’s 
when President Lyndon Johnson translated the demands 
of the civil rights movement into a theory of cultural 
deprivation, arguing that salvation from poverty and 
racism could be found in an improved educational system. 
When in the 1970’s everyone awoke to the fact that the 
educational system had not eliminated racism or poverty, 
people began to argue that education had very little to 
offer in the way of social change. 3 

This conclusion is correct if one assumes that edu- 
cation’s role is what Paulo Freire has called the banking 
system of education, which in fact tends to support social 
rigidity. Certainly the theories considered in this volume, 
however, connect changes in education to an ongoing 
program of social change. Part of their emphasis is that no 
social change is meaningful unless people participate in its 
formulation. And this applies, as well, to children. 

THE WEDDING OF revolutionary thought to radical 
pedagogy had its roots in a profound pessimism, a feeling 
that revolutionary social and economic changes in the 
twentieth century had resulted in totalitarian states— the 
Soviet Union, for example, where revolutionary impulses 
were followed by a period of conservative dictatorship. 
Why the failure of this revolutionary endeavor? For people 
like Reich, Neill, and Freire the answer lies in its failure to 
provide radically new means of education and socialization 

by which all people could be brought into the revolution- 
ary movement and become acting members of it rather 
than its objects. 

From this perspective, a radical educational theory 
makes sense only if it is seen as part of a total 
revolutionary endeavor. One of the most serious problems 
facing the present and future development of libertarian 
forms of education is the dangerous separation of educa- 
tional methods from a political and social ideology. 
Radical experiments in education tend to be trivialized as 
fast as they are developed. Paulo Freire ’s techniques Eire 
adopted by the Peace Corps and the free school methods 
of Summerhill are introduced into the classrooms of the 
public school without any relationship to their underlying 
radical ideology. What begins as a radical movement is 
quickly absorbed by the existing system; new techniques 
are used, but only to accomplish the old objectives of 
control and discipline. The Summerhillian approach, triv- 
ialized within the public school classroom, becomes a 
warm, loving, and free method of teaching the same 
subject matter and producing the same character struc- 
ture. 4 One obvious example of this process is the 
movement for day-care centers. Once divorced from a 
movement to change the family and to free society from 
the authoritarian personality and state control, the day- 
care center becomes an instrument for dominating the 
population. Day-care centers are now being used as a 
means of controlling the poor by creating a new institu- 
tional family structure and by avoiding any major changes 
in the economic system by forcing the welfare mother to 
work. Day-care centers are provided not to relieve people 
from an authoritarian family structure, but to provide 
them with one that they are believed to lack. 

The future of any radical endeavor in education depends 
upon maintaining the link between educational methods 
and a libertarian perspective. The social critique, the 
planning, and the methods must all be kept together. 



Certainly, the greatness of John Dewey was his ability to 
link a psychological definition of humanity to a total 
social philosophy, and then to develop educational 
methods based on that concept of humanity and guided by 
that social philosophy. All methods and content in 
education affect character and action. Consequently, all 
educational techniques reflect some ideological position. 
For instance, Paulo Freire has certainly shown that the 
teaching of reading and writing might be the most political 
act in education. If education is pursued without a 
conscious radical perspective, it will do nothing but serve 
the existing social order. 

It should also be clearly understood that there are two 
distinct ways of talking about education’s potential to 
have a radical effect on society. On the one hand, 
educational systems such as Paulo Freire’s can provide a 
method which liberates individuals so that they will act to 
bring about a radical change in society. On the other hand, 
an educational establishment itself may directly affect 
society, as in the case of a day-care center which weakens 
the family structure. Both approaches can be combined 
within one system. A.S. Neill’s dream of a socialist state 
with Summerhill schools was directed both at weakening 
the family and at creating the self-regulated individual. 

While the above arguments would seem to demonstrate 
that there is something called radical education which can 
have a meaningful role in radical social change, it does not 
answer the question of whether it is worthwhile to direct 
one’s energies toward educational change rather than 
concentrating on other areas of social change. One reply, 
of course, could emphasize the essential role of educa- 
tional change in any radical movement, as our theorists 
have stressed. But this reply avoids the problem of the 
existence of a tremendously powerful and complex educa- 
tional establishment with its increasingly effective mecha- 
nisms for absorbing criticism and utilizing any educational 
method for its own purposes. This is not to suggest that 


there is any conspiratorial group manipulating the educa- 
tional system. If this were true, the problem might be 
much simpler. In reality this educational establishment is a 
complex web of often competing groups. In the United 
States these groups range from professional teaching 
organizations and unions, through administrative organiza- 
tions, schools of education, publishing companies, and 
testing organizations, to state legislatures, national policy 
groups, and the federal government. 

Any attempt to make a radical pedagogy part of a 
radical political and social movement must come to terms 
with this educational establishment. The neglect of 
attempts to change this educational establishment would 
mean the neglect of an entire generation which is held in 
the custodial control of the school. Moreover, a very good 
case can be made for political and social movements to have 
to direct some energy toward educational change since the 
school is one of the major public institutions, second only to 
the Defense Department in terms of public expenditures. 
If we talk about change in our social institutions, we 
certainly cannot neglect one of the largest and most 
intrusive of them. In fact, it is the one public institution 
which has the most contact with all members of society. 

The school, in short, must be approached first of all as a 
political and social institution. To give concrete meaning 
to theories of radical education— to that which can be — one 
must begin by coming to terms with that which exists. The 
one major shortcoming of radical educational theorists has 
been their failure to deal with the reality of existing 
educational systems and how their theories might be 
implemented. For instance, it is fine for A.S. Neill to 
establish a model like Summerhill, but Summerhill has 
little meaning unless it can be implemented throughout 
society. Neill was never very helpful about the strategies 
one might use to convert an entire educational system to 
that model. The failure of many free schools in the 1960’s 
was a direct result of not making a concrete assessment of 


the political workings of public schooling and developing 
of strategies to confront and change that system. Many of 
these schools just languished outside the system, without 
money or power. What this means is that if radical 
pedagogy is to be made part of a radical movement, it can 
not act as if it were creating a new educational system in a 
vacuum. Strategies must be developed to confront the 
political realities of the existing educational establishment. 

LET US CONSIDER some possible strategies for radical- 
izing American education. Any plan for meaningful educa- 
tional change must affect the whole spectrum of educa- 
tional power. There must not only be alternative 
educational models, but also a legal campaign to change 
educational laws, a fight for a different system of 
educational funding, an understanding of the need for 
children’s rights, an emphasis on women’s rights and 
changing the structure of the family, and a campaign to 
change the nature and direction of research in the schools 
of education of major universities. 

One of the first steps that could be taken would be the 
elimination of compulsory education . 5 A campaign against 
compulsory education laws might be conducted, either 
through the courts or on the floor of state legislatures. No 
radical educational plan can really be developed if all 
children are required to attend a school approved by the 
state government. But at the same time compulsory 
education laws are attacked, it must be recognized that 
they were originally developed to solve certain social 
problems, namely child labor and juvenile delinquency. 
Compulsory education does protect children from eco- 
nomic exploitation and does serve the custodial function 
of occupying time. Thus, the end of compulsory education 


would have to be accompanied by a change in the 
economic structure which allowed for the financial inde- 
pendence of youth. 

An economic change of this nature could have a direct 
effect upon the family. Because the increased duration of 
schooling has prolonged the child’s dependency upon the 
family structure, heads of household must earn an income 
above their personal needs in order to support their 
dependents— children or other non-wage-eaming members 
of the family. To alleviate this economic dependence on 
the family, the surplus income of the head of the 
household could be rechanneled to the children. This 
might involve a plan which would levy a tax on adults for 
the support of children. Accompanying this economic 
change could be changes in the legal rights of children. For 
instance, children might remain within the custody of the 
family until the age of twelve or thirteen. Up to that point 
the child’s income from the state would be used as an 
educational voucher. The child and the family would make 
a decision about how the money should be used for 
educational purposes. This would break the monopoly of 
public schools and allow for the use of a wide variety of 
alternative schools. Then, at the age of thirteen or 
fourteen, youths would be recognized as being legally 
independent of the family and allowed to leave home if 
they so desired. Income would be guaranteed by the state 
until the age of twenty-one. Before the age of thirteen or 
fourteen children would be able to ask the courts to 
remove them from intolerable home situations. 

Economic independence would allow for the changing 
of other laws affecting youth. Child labor laws could be 
eliminated because youths would no longer be vulnerable 
to exploitation on the labor market . 6 Youths could choose 
jobs because of interest and desire to learn. There could also 
be a campaign to insure adolescent sexual freedom. Not 
only could all restrictive laws be removed but birth-control 
devices and information might be provided. Economic 



independence and legal changes hopefully would overcome 
what Wilhelm Reich referred to as the “housing prob- 
lems.” Independent residences might be made available to 
youths. Society, in short, could recognize the legitimacy of 
adolescent sexual activity. 

The economic independence of youth would represent a 
major step in the liberation of women. Traditionally, girls 
and young women have been under the control of the 
family for longer periods of time than their male counter- 
parts. Even marriage at an early age only results in a shift 
from the control of one head of the household to another. 
A major source of female dependence on the family is the 
lack of easy access to occupations which provide economic 
independence. Combined with this economic problem is 
the traditional attitude that women must be protected by 
the home and denied the social independence of their male 
counterparts. Providing women with equal economic inde- 
pendence would hopefully allow them the same type of 
social freedom and opportunity for development. 

The elimination of compulsory education and the 
shifting of educational funding from the level of the school 
to that of the individual could break the power of the 
educational bureaucracy. It should be recognized that in 
the United States, control of the school does not really 
reside in the local boards of education . 7 Such important 
educational issues as curriculum, content of textbooks, and 
requirements for teacher certification are decided within 
an interlocking educational bureaucracy which includes 
professional organizations, state officials, universities, and 
publishing companies— not to mention the new learning 
corporations like IBM and Educational Testing Services, 
which represent the most important and rapidly growing 
parts of this bureaucracy. 

One way to weaken the power of this educational 
bureaucracy would be to avoid any supervision of educa- 
tional spending, leaving decisions about how the money 
should be spent completely up to the individual. That 


would mean parental supervision until the child was twelve 
or thirteen; after that, the individual youth would have 
absolute control over the spending of the money. If a 
government body were established to supervise the spend- 
ing, it would be likely to fall under the power of the same 
social and economic influences which have surrounded the 
school. Instead, we could develop a democratic system 
which placed control in the hands of the individual. The 
practice of freedom is the best exercise in learning how to 
use freedom. What little money might be lost or 
squandered at an individual level would be nothing 
compared to the amount of money wasted and squandered 
within the existing educational structure. The history of 
government control and regulation in the United States has 
been one of creating what has been called a “socialism for 
the rich.” We could exercise a traditional American 
distrust for government organizations as sources of power 
for those in control, and instead place our faith in 
individual actions. 

The demise of the existing educational structure could 
be accompanied by the recognition that the concept of the 
school is out of date in modem technological society. The 
schools in the nineteenth century was viewed not only as a 
source of social control but also as a center where all the 
materials of learning, books and teachers, could be 
concentrated. With mass media and urban living there is no 
reason why a person should not be able to learn the basic 
skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic just by growing 
and interacting within the community. Ivan Illich’s De- 
schooling Society has certainly offered path-breaking 
suggestions in this direction. 

One of the immediate questions that occur when it is 
suggested that the school be eliminated is: What happens 
to the poor? Is not the school their only hope? How will 
they learn growing up in a culture of poverty? Without the 
school will there not be even greater social class dif- 
ferences? In response, it should be clearly recognized that 


schooling has not eliminated poverty in the past nor will it 
in the future. To use the school to solve problems of 
poverty is to seek a conservative solution without directly 
changing the social structure which created poverty. It 
should also be recognized that schooling as a system of 
social selection has tended to reinforce the existing social 
class structure. But to get rid of the school is certainly not 
going to eliminate poverty. In other words, having schools 
or not having schools is not going to make that much 
difference because schools are not at the heart of the 
problem of poverty. But if the school were eliminated and 
at the same time children and youth were given economic 
independence, the problem of poverty would be con- 
fronted directly. Poor children would have enough money 
to explore and enjoy the advantages now reserved for the 
middle class. 

The next question, of course, is whether the culture of 
poverty doesn’t hinder and limit the type of choices made 
by the parents and youth. The answer, of course, is yes. 
But this “yes” must be qualified in two ways. First, the 
poor are better judges of how their educational money 
should be spent than the traditional leaders in the 
educational bureaucracy. Second, the legal and legislative 
campaign directed against compulsory education and 
educational funding could be accompanied by the radicali- 
zation of the schools of education in major universities. 
This would provide a center for dealing directly with the 
problems raised by a culture of poverty by utilizing 
community education programs based on methods like 
Paulo Freire’s and by developing techniques of radical 

The radicalization of faculties of education would 
involve completely changing their conception of their own 
function. The educators would have to raise a whole new 
set of questions— questions very different from those 
which have occupied traditional pedagogical theory. As 
Wilhelm Reich suggested in the 1920’s, nothing of major 


consequence can be accomplished by treatment at an 
individual level. If repression exists on a society-wide level, 
the solution is not individual treatment but changing those 
social conditions and institutions which cause repression. 
Individual therapy is essentially conservative because it 
leaves untouched the source of the problem. The same 
difficulty exists with schools and the faculties of education 
which have served those schools. Treatment of social 
problems has tended to be at an individual and conserva- 
tive level. There is an attempt to overcome the culture of 
poverty by treating the child within the confines of the 
school. The real solution lies in directly attacking the 
social conditions which keep a person from learning and 
growing in our society. 

One of the major obstacles in radicalizing faculties of 
education will be their traditional relationship to the 
process of schooling. Education departments and schools 
of education have tended to see their function primarily as 
one of serving the needs of the public schools by supplying 
teachers and services. Very often a large number of 
university people studying education have come from the 
ranks of public schooling and consider the department of 
education as an extension of the public schools. Histori- 
cally, that is the reason for the establishment of normal 
schools and colleges of education. The consequence of this 
process has been a severe limitation on the study and 
development of meaningful educational processes. 

The results of this narrow focus are reflected in the 
various disciplines within education. Today all such dis- 
ciplines are directed toward serving the schools. Teacher 
training is designed primarily to prepare a person to teach 
standard subjects within a public school classroom. The 
nature of education courses is governed by the require- 
ments for state certification. Educational psychology as a 
discipline in education tends to focus on the psychology of 
classroom management. It sees itself as supplying the 
scientific tools for teaching within the classroom and 







managing a captive audience of students. Both the research 
and content of instruction are centered on learning within 
the context of the classroom. Educational sociology tends 
to follow the same path and concentrates on classroom 
and school social interaction and the handling of cultural 
differences within the school. The teaching of educational 
history, like United States history in the public schools, is 
largely a matter of selling certain ideas and beliefs. 
Educational philosophy has tended to get lost within the 
process of defining and clarifying the goals of public 

Radical groups, students, and faculty could begin to 
place pressure on faculties of education to rechart the 
direction of American education. 8 This pressure could be 
applied internally, through the teaching and research of 
individual faculty members, and through the demand by 
students for a different type of educational program. 
Outside groups, such as alternative schools, could place 
pressure on the universities to supply the same types of 
services as are extended to the public schools. The demand 
could be made that universities not exclusively serve the 
needs of public schooling but begin to look at the 
educational process within the framework of a broad 
cultural perspective. 

One of the first things that might be done would be to 
separate teacher training from the state certification 
requirements. This might initially involve proposing two 
separate courses of study in teacher training. One of these 
would lead to state certification and the other to the 
development and implementation of methods like Paulo 
Freire’s. This second course of study would provide a base 
for the collection of material and training of workers for 
community action. Teachers trained in methods like 
Freire’s could go into poverty areas and establish educa- 
tional programs outside the public school system to 
develop social consciousness. The teacher training pro- 
grams could also provide facilities for training minority 


group leaders, like Native Americans and blacks, in 
Freirian or other techniques. 

Educational sociology and psychology could work 
together to accomplish what Wilhelm Reich called radical 
therapy. Both of these disciplines could begin to look at 
the problem of why certain people within our society 
cannot learn without relying upon the authoritarian 
structure of the school. If such dependency does not exist, 
we can safely abandon the school and rely on every 
individual to grow and learn in his or her own manner. But 
one suspects that at this stage, there are still many barriers 
to free and independent learning. This might be partic- 
ularly true in cultures of poverty. The job for psychology 
and sociology would be to identify those barriers which 
create a state of dependency in the learning process. Is the 
problem, as Reich suggested, mainly centered around the 
existence of the nuclear family? Is the problem more 
directly related to the economic conditions of poverty? Is it 
a result of the structure and the conditions of our modem 
urban environment? These and a host of other 
questions immediately come to mind. Sociology and 
psychology could then go on to identify those social 
conditions which would allow people to live and grow in 
the world without the authoritarian control of the schools. 
They could develop a radical therapy which would result 
in major changes in our society. If children cannot learn, 
one must not stop with just helping them to overcome 
their immediate problem. One must identify those social 
conditions which hinder their learning and directly attack 
those conditions. 

Educational sociology could also assume the extra 
burden of studying the nature of control and economic 
exploitation in education. At a local level studies need to 
be made of the relationship between local elites and 
control of education. Such studies, linking the ideology of 
the school with the ideology of a particular social class, 
would follow in the tradition of George Counts’ early 


studies on the social composition of school boards. In 
addition, students might be mobilized to study the 
financial dealings of local school districts and watch for 
possible conflicts of interest. What needs to be done on a 
national level is a study of the national power elite in 
education. This would include a study of the educational 
leaders who move easily between foundations, publishing 
companies, universities, educational organizations, and the 
federal educational establishment. It would be interesting 
to study the ideology of this power elite and its effect 
upon education. 

The history and philosophy of education could begin to 
study the relationship between ideology and educational 
practice which includes the whole socialization process. 
Any theory about the socialization process is based on a 
concept of human nature and directed toward a vision of 
what ought to be. Theories of the family, community, 
school, city planning, and other related parts of the 
socialization process would be defined in terms of these 
underlying ideologies. History and philosophy could make 
these ideological assumptions explicit, examining them 
both in their historical context and in their present manifes- 
tations. It should be the responsibility of these two 
disciplines to assure that educational methods do not 
become isolated from their political and social roots. 

they do represent the kinds of practical things that must 
be considered if radical education is to have any meaning. 
There must be a clear development of how theory can be 
put into practice in the modem world. For years American 
educators have wondered why the educational philosophy 
of John Dewey has so little influence on the daily 
workings of the public school classroom. Part of the 
answer can be found in Dewey’s own writings. While 


Dewey certainly translated his philosophy into classroom 
methods, he never suggested ways the educational estab- 
lishment could be changed so that his methods could be 
put into practice. Dewey’s method became a topic of 
discussion but not a practical tool. In the same way, 
radical pedagogy could become just a topic for discussion 
unless it orients itself politically toward die realities of the 
existing educational structure. 

One hundred years ago it would have been difficult to 
convince large numbers of people that changing educa- 
tional institutions was a necessary part of political and 
economic change. Today this is equally true because social and 
economic forces have made schools one of the central 
controlling agencies in society. For this reason schools 
must become a part of any attempt at major social 
change. This does not necessarily mean an extension of 
schooling; it could as easily mean the limitation or 
elimination of schooling. What must be kept in mind is 
that mass schooling is a product of a particular set of 
historical forces which has made it into one of the major 
institutions for planned socialization. 

What must also be kept in mind is the distinction 
between schooling and education. Schooling has been a 
planned method of socialization designed to produce 
obedient workers and citizens through a system of 
institutional controls. On the other hand, education can 
mean gaining knowledge and ability by which one can 
transform the world and maximize individual autonomy. 
Education can be a source of individual liberation. One of 
the internal contradictions within the present system of 
schooling relates to this distinction. Modem workers do 
need basic skills and some degree of understanding of the 
world and, consequently, must be given some education. It 
very often happens that this education raises the level of 
awareness enough to cause rebellion against the process of 
socialization or schooling. This has occurred in the last ten 
years in student protests and demands for protection of 



individual liberties and rights. Unfortunately this has 
occurred mainly in middle-class schools where there is still 
some semblance of education. Poor children have been 
primarily well schooled and not well educated. 

Presently in the United States there is a movement to 
eliminate all vestiges of education in favor of something 
called “career education.” The career education movement 
holds as a basic tenet of faith that all learning must be 
directed toward the needs of some future occupation. 
Learning is made subservient to a future social role and the 
socialization process of the school. Knowledge is not 
presented as a means of understanding and critically 
analyzing social and economic forces but as a means of 
subservience to the social structure. “Career education” 
could represent the logical outcome of the controlling 
power of schooling . 9 

What must be sought in the future is a system of 
education which raises the level of individual consciousness 
to an understanding of the social and historical forces that 
have created the existing society and determined an 
individual’s place in that society. This must occur through 
a combination of theory and practice in which both change 
as all people work for a liberated society. There should not 
be a blueprint for future change but, rather, a constant 
dialogue about means and ends. Education should be at 
the heart of such a revolutionary endeavor. 




Chapter I 

1 Samuel Bowles, “Understanding Unequal Economic Oppor- 
tunity, ’’American Economic Review, Vol. LXIII, No. 2, May 1973, 
pp. 346-356; Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, “I.Q. in the U.S. 
Class Structure,” Social Policy, Vol. 3, Nos. 4 and 5, Nov./Dec. 1972 
and Jan./Feb. 1973; Samuel Bowles, “Schooling and Inequality from 
Generation to Generation,” Journal of Political Economy, May /June 

2 A good biography and summary of Godwin’s ideas is George 
Woodcock’s William Godwin (London: The Porcupine Press, 1946). 

3 William Godwin, “An Account of the Seminary ... At Epsom 
in Surrey,” in Four Early Pamphlets (Gainesville, Florida: Scholars’ 
Facsimiles and Reprints, 1966), p. 150. 

4 William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its 
Influence on Morals and Happiness (Toronto: The University of 
Toronto Press, 1946), Vol. II, p. 302. 

5 See Woodcock, op. cit., pp. 63-73. 

6 Godwin, Enquiry Concerning . . . , Vol. II, pp. 302-303. 



7 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 304. 

8 Ibid. 

9 See Johann Gottlieb Fichte, “The Nature of the New Educa- 
tion,” in Addresses to the German Nation, trans. by R.F. Jones and 
G.H. Turnbull (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Co., 1922). 

1 0 See Henry Barnard on Education edited by John S. Brubacher 
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1931), p. 74. 

1 1 This is taken from George Mosse’s fine anthology of Nazi 
Culture (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1966). 

1 2 For further elaboration of radical reaction to schooling in the 
United States see Chapter VII of my book Education and the Rise of 
the Corporate State (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972). 

13 Francisco Ferrer, “L’Ecole Renovee,” Mother Earth (Nov., 
1909), Vol. IV, No. 9, p. 269. 

14 Ibid., p. 268. 

15 Ibid.,p. 272. 

1 6 Ibid. 

1 7 Francisco Ferrer, The Origin and Ideals of the Modern School, 
trans. by Joseph McCabe (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1913), 
p. 48. 

1 8 Ferrer, “L’Ecole Renovee,” p. 269. 

1 9 William Godwin, The Enquirer (London: C.G. & J. Robinson, 
1797), pp. 66-97. 

20 Harry Kelly, “The Modern School in Retrospect,” in The 
Modern School of Stelton (Stelton, New Jersey: The Modern School 
Association of North America, 1925), p. 115. 

2 1 For Ivan Illich’s expansion of the concept of alienation see his 
paper The Breakdown of Schools (Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC, 
Apr., 1971), pp. 11-19. 

2 2 See Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (New 
York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970). 

23 See A.B. Hollinshead, Elmtown’s Youth (New York: John 
Wiley & Sons, 1949). 

Chapter II 

1 Francisco Ferrer, The Origin and Ideals of the Modern School, 
pp. 89-90. 

2 Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile (New York: Dutton, 1911). 

3 For a biographical sketch of Stimer’s life see George Wood- 


cock’s Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements 
(Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1969), pp. 94-105. 

4 Max Stimer, The Ego and His Own: The Case of the Individual 
Against Authority, trans. by Steven T. Byington (New York: 
Libertarian Book Club, 1963), p. 342. 

5 Max Stimer, The False Principle of Our Education, trans. by 
Robert H. Beebe (Colorado Springs: Ralph Myles, 1967), p. 23. 

6 Stimer, The Ego and His Own, pp. 106-7. 

7 Ibid. , p. 242. 

8 Ibid., p. 52, 342. 

9 Ibid. , pp. 330-335. 

10 Ibid., pp. 200-209. 

11 Ibid. , pp. 173-185. 

1 2 Emma Goldman, “The Child and Its Enemies,” Mother Earth 
(April, 1906), Vol. I, No. 2, pp. 12-13. 

1 3 Ferrer, The Origin and Ideas of the Modern School, pp. 76-87. 

14 Ibid. , p. 29. 

1 5 Ibid., p. 76. 

1 6 Ibid., pp. 86-89, 89-90. 

1 7 Goldman, “The Child and Its Enemies,” p. 9. 

1 8 Leo Tolstoy, “Education and Culture,” in Tolstoy on Educa- 
tion, trans. by Leo Wiener (Chicago: The University of Chicago 
Press, 1967). 

1 9 Stimer, The False Principle of Our Education, p. 23. 

20 Ibid. , pp. 1-25. 

21 Ivan Blich, “The Breakdown of Schools: a problem or a 
SYMPTOM?” (Cuernavaca, Mexico 71.04.21), pp. 11-19. 

22 Elizabeth Bums Ferm, “Activity and Passivity of the Educa- 
tor,” Mother Earth (March, 1907), Vol. II, No. 1, p. 26. 

2 3 Colin Ward, “Adventure Playground: A Parable of Anarchy,” 
Anarchy 7 (1961), pp. 193-201. 

24 Ibid. 

25 George Dennison, “The First Street School,” in Radical 
School Reform, edited by Ronald and Beatrice Gross (New York: 
Simon and Schuster, 1969), pp. 227-246. 

26 See Paul Goodman’s New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic 
Consermtive (New York: Random House, 1970), and Communitas 
(New York: Random House, 1965). 

27 Paul Goodman, Compulsory Mis-Education and The Com- 
munity of Scholars (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), p. 57. 


28 Ibid., pp. 30-34. 

29 See Ivan Dlich, Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institu- 
tional Revolution (New York: Doubleday, 1971), and De-Schooling 
Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). 

Chapter HI 

1 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (New 
York: International Publishers Inc., 1939), pp. 1-2. 

2 Ibid., p. 14. 

3 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. by Myra 
Berman Ramos (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), p. 85. 

4 Ibid., pp. 111-112. 

5 Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, trans. by 
T.B. Bottomore in Erich Fromm’s Marx's Concept of Man (New 
York: Frederick Ungar Co., 1961), p. 101. 

6 Ibid. 

7 Rollo May, “The Emergence of Existential Psychology,” in 
Existential Psychology edited by Rollo May (New York: Random 
House, 1960), p. 44. 

8 Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, pp. 119-121. 

9 Marx, The German Ideology, p. 20. 

10 Karl Marx, Capital, trans. by Samuel Moore and Edward 
Aveling (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., Ltd., 1904), p. 423. 

1 1 John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York: The Free 
Press, 1966), pp. 250-261. 

1 2 Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 59. 

1 3 Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, p. 98. 

14 Ibid., pp. 93-109. 

1 5 Marx, The German Ideology, p. 39. 

1 6 Paulo Freire, “The Adult Literacy Process as Cultural Action 
for Freedom,” Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 40, 1970, No. 2, 

p. 216. 

1 7 Carl R. Rogers, Client-Centered Therapy (Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 488. 

18 Ibid. , p. 513. 

19 Ibid. , p. 522. 

20 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, pp. 119-186. 

21 See Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (Palo Alto: 
Ramparts, 1971). 



22 Paulo Freire, “Cultural Action and Conscientization,” Harvard 
Educational Review, Vol. 40, 1970, No. 3, pp. 452-475. 

Chapter IV 

1 A.S. Neill, “The Man Reich,” in Wilhelm Reich by A.S. Neill, 
Paul and Jean Ritter, Myron Sharaf, Nic Wool (Nottingham: The 
Ritter Press, 1958), p. 21. 

2 See Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (London: 
Hogarth Press, 1949). 

3 Wilhelm Reich, The Discovery of the Orgone: The Function of 
the Orgasm (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970), p. 133. 

4 Ibid., p. 53. 

5 Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 19. 

5 Ibid., pp. 19-34. 

7 Reich, The Discovery of Orgone . . . , pp. 114-130. 

8 Ibid., p. 124. 

9 Ibid. pp. 143-163. 

10 Ibid., p. 156. 

1 1 Ibid., p. 158. 

12 Ibid. , p. 153. 

13 Wilhelm Reich, The Invasion of Compulsory Sex-Morality 
(New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971), p. 146. 

14 Wilhelm Reich, The Sexual Revolution (New York: Farrar, 
Straus and Giroux, 1962), p. 72. 

15 Ibid. , p. 77. 

1 6 Ibid., p. 79. 

1 7 Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, pp. 32, 55-59. 

18 Ibid. , pp. 68-74. 

1 9 Ibid., p. 61. 

20 Reich, The Sexual Revolution, p. xiv. 

2 1 Ibid., pp. 153-160. 

22 Ibid., pp. 240-247. 

23 Reich, The Invasion of Compulsory . . . , pp. 9-10. 

24 Reich, The Sexual Revolution, pp. 243-246. 

25 Ibid. , p. 236. 

26 Ibid., p. 237. 

27 Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 377. 

28 Wilhelm Reich, The Murder of Christ (New York: Farrar, 
Straus and Giroux, 1971). 



29 A.S. Neill, The Problem Child (New York: Robert M. 
McBride, 1927), pp. 18, 114. 

30 Ibid., p. 52. 

31 A.S. Neill, The Problem Family (New York: Hermitage Press, 
1949), p. 17. 

32 A.S. Neill, “The Man Reich,” pp. 24-25. 

33 Neill, The Problem Child, p. 100. 

34 Ibid. , pp. 211,231-232. 

35 A.S. Neill, “Authority and Freedom in the School,” The New 
Era, 16:23 (January, 1935), pp. 22-25. 

36 A.S. Neill, The Problem Teacher (New York: The Inter- 
national Press, 1944), pp. 19-32. 

37 Ibid., p. 27. 

38 A.S. Neill, Hearts Not Heads in the School (London: Herbert 
Jenkins Ltd., 1944), pp. 31-34. 

39 Ibid., 21. 

40 Neill, The Problem Family, p. 177. 

41 Ibid., 173. 

42 Ibid.,p. 151. 

Chapter V 

1 Philippe Aries, Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of 
Family Life, translated by Robert Baldick (New York: Vintage 
Books, 1962), p. 441. 

2 Frank Musgrove, Youth and the Social Order (London: 
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964). 

3 Clarence J. Karier, Paul Violas, and Joel Spring, Roots of Crisis 
(Chicago: Rand McNally, 1973). 

4 Melford E. Spiro, Kibbutz (New York: Schocken Books, 

5 Ibid. , p. 226. 

6 Ibid., pp. 121-122. 

7 See David Rapaport, “The Study of Kibbutz Education and its 
Bearing on the Theory of Development,” American Journal of 
Orthopsychiatry , XXVIII (1958), pp. 587-597 and Melford Spiro’s 
Children of the Kibbutz (New York: Schocken Books, 1965). 

8 Bruno Bettelheim, The Children of the Dream: Communal 
Child-Rearing and American Education (New York: Avon Books, 
1970), p. 145. 


9 Ibid., p. 144. 

10 Ibid. , pp. 137-147. 

1 1 Ibid., p. 281. 

12 Ibid. , pp. 188-193. 

1 3 Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: 
Dover Publications, Inc., 1969), pp. 214-225. 

Chapter VI 

1 A study of the influence of this model on the development of 
education in the twentieth century can be found in Joel Spring’s 
Education and the Rise of the Corporate State (Boston: Beacon 
Press, 1972) and in Roots of Crisis (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1973) 
by Clarence Karier, Paul Violas and Joel Spring. The effect of this 
model on the development of the high school is detailed in Edward 
Krug’s The Shaping of the American High School, Volume I (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1964). 

2 For an introduction to how education has mirrored class 
interests see Michael B. Katz, The Irony of Early School Reform 
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1970) and Spring, op. cit. 

3 The most important government document which provided the 
basic arguments for the war on poverty and linked education with 
the solution of poverty and discrimination was “The Problem of 
Poverty in America,” The Annual Report of the Council of 
Economic Advisers (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Printing Office, 1964). 

4 On the trivialization of radical school experiments see Jonathan 
Kozol’s Free Schools (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972). 

5 On the issue of compulsory schooling see The Twelve Year 
Sentence edited by William F. Rickenbacker (LaSalle, Illinois: Open 
Court, 1974). 

6 One position in this regard is clearly stated in John Holt’s 
Escape From Childhood (New York: Dutton, 1974). 

7 See James Koerner’s Who Controls American Education? 
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1968). 

8 One recent example of change in this direction is the 1975 
yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum 
Development. This yearbook, Schools in Search of Meaning edited 
by James Macdonald and Esther Zaret (Washington, D.C.: Associa- 
tion for Supervision and Curriculum, 1975), contains a major radical 
critique of schooling by a group which has had very strong links with 
the public schools. 


9 The leading advocate of career education is former Com- 
missioner of Education Sidney P. Marland. For an example of his 
thinking on the subject see his articles “The School’s Role in Career 
Development,” Educational Leadership 30, No. 3 (December 1972), 
pp. 203-205 and “The Endless Renaissance,” American Education 8, 
No. 3 (April 1972), p. 9. 



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Life. New York: Vintage Books, 1962. 

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Children of the Dream: Communal Child- 
Rearing and American Education. New York: The Macmillan 
Company, 1969. 

Cohen; Joseph. The Modern School of Stelton. Stelton, New Jersey, 

Ferrer, Francisco. “L’Ecole Renovee,” Mother Earth (November, 

The Origin and Ideals of the Modern School. New York: G.P. 
Putnam’s Sons, 1913. 

Freire, Paulo. “The Adult Literacy Process as Cultural Action for 
Freedom,” Harvard Educational Review. Vol. 40, 1970, No. 2. 


“Cultural Action and Conscientization,” Harvard Educational 
Review. Vol. 40, 1970, No. 3. 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder, 

Godwin, William. The Enquirer. London: C.G. and J. Robinson, 

Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on 
Morals and Happiness. Toronto: The University of Toronto 
Press, 1946. 

Four Early Pamphlets. Gainesville, Florida: Scholar’s Facsim- 
ile and Reprints, 1966. 

Goldman, Emma. Anarchism and Other Essays. New York: Dover 
Publications, 1969. 

Illich, Ivan. Celebrationr of Awareness: A Call for Institutional 
Revolution. New York: Doubleday, 1971. 

De-Schooling Society . New York: Harper & Row, 1971. 

Marx, Karl. Capital. Translated by Samuel Moore and Edward 
Aveling. London: Swann Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd., 1904. 

Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. Translated by T.B. 
Bottomore. In Erich Fromm’s Marx’s Concept of Man. New 
York: Frederick Ungar, 1961. 

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The German Ideology. New York: 
International Publishers, Inc., 1939. 

Neill, Alexander Sutherland. Hearts Not Heads in the School. 
London: Jenkins Limited, 1944. 

The Problem Child. New York: Robert M. McBride & 
Company, 1927. 



The Problem Teacher. New York: The International Press, 

The Problem Family. New York: Hermitage Press, 1949. 

Summerhill. New York: Hart Publ., 1960. 

Willhelm Reich. Nottingham: The Ritter Press, 1958. 

Reich, Wilhelm. The Discovery of the Orgone: The Function of the 
Orgasm. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970. 

The Invasion of Compulsory Sex-Morality. New York: Farrar, 
Straus and Giroux, 1970. 

The Mass Psychology of Fascism. New York: Farrar, Straus 
and Giroux, 1970. 

The Sexual Revolution. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 

Stirner, Max. The Ego and His Own. Translated by Steven T. 
Byington. New York: Libertarian Book Club, 1963. 

The False Principle of Our Education. Translated by Robert 
Beebe. Colorado Springs: Ralph Myles, Publisher, 1967. 

Tolstoy, Leo. Tolstoy on Education. Translated by Leo Wiener, 
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1967. 

Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 
London: Walter Scott. 



Joel Spring is an associate professor of education at Case 
Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He is author of 
Education and the Rise of the Corporate State and other 
books on education. He has written extensively for various 
educational and radical journals. Currently is he working 
on a study of national educational policy since World 
War II. 

Free Life Editions would like to thank the following peo- 
ple who helped in various ways to make this book possible: 
Renna Draynel, Kathy Brown, Marcia Salo Rizzi, Walter 
Heitner and Faculty Press, our friends at Black Rose Books, 
and our own staff— Chuck Hamilton, Diane Radycki, 
Bertch, and Mark Powelson.